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Full text of "Mr. Bryant's mistake"

ME. BEYANT'S MISTAKE 



MK. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 



BY 



KATHARINE WYLDE 

AUTHOR OF 'a DREAMER,' ' AN ILL-REGULATED MIND,' ETC. 




IN THREE VOLUMES— VOL. Ill 



LONDON 

RICHARD BENTLEY & SON, NEW BURLINGTON ST. 

^ubltsf}crs in ©rtitnarg to f^cr fHajestg tf)e <^vLtm 

1890 



All rights reserved 



^>3 



' God help us and enligliteu us for the future, that we may 
not stand in our own way so much, but may liave clear notions 
of the consequences of things.' 



CONTENTS 



PART IX 

PAGE 

An Extinct Volcano ...... 1 



PART X 

Giant Despair ....... 87 

PART XI 

Some are Married, Some are Dead . . .151 

PART XII 

Conclusion .247 



PART IX 
AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 



VOL. Ill 40 



ME. BEYANT'S MISTAKE 



CHAPTEE I 

' I won't think/ Xannie told herself again next day ; 
and really she did not think very much. She went 
about like a thing in a dream, conscious of a never- 
ceasing ache in her heart, but not probing it ; another 
person from the resolute girl she had been yester- 
day. She could hardly believe she was not a 
phantom, while her real self was sitting docilely at 
Faverton by Maria's side — Maria, who no doubt 
was in a dreadful fright, even though unaware that 
her charge had run away in a carriage with a blush- 
ing young clergyman. ' I don't care I ' thought 
Xannie ; ' it won't hurt her to be anxious a little 
while. I have been anxious too, and I am alive 
still and very healthy. To-morrow I will write.' 

To-morrow. Xannie was still disposed to defer 
everything till to-morrow. She heard in the morn- 
ing of Mr. Eandle's death, but the pain of bereave- 



4 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

ment had not come to her yet ; rather she had a 
shocked feeling of relief. How could she have met 
him again now she knew she was not his daughter ? 
To-morrow she would go to John and learn about it. 
She could not meet John to-day. 

And to-morrow — she must find some way of 
giving his ring back to Sir Vincent. Ah no ! she 
could not give it up to-day ! She was too sad to- 
day. And to-morrow, perhaps, she would have 
another message to send with it — a message to tell 
him — 

' Ah I ' sighed Nannie, ' he will understand that 
I had to do it. The ring must go back, and without 
one word, one look — only not to-day, not to-day.' 

And it came to pass that, unseen, Nannie saw 
him when he was standing outside Tanswick station, 
talking to Mrs. Bryant and Georgina. Nannie had 
been wandering about, trying to get some authentic 
tidings of Alick, and now she had strayed to Tans- 
wick. There were trees about the station, and 
Nannie hid among them and looked hungrily upon 
the man she loved, and whom she was giving up for 
ever. Her eyes filled, for she was lonely and miser- 
able. Mrs. Bryant, who was not, it seemed, a good 
woman, might talk to him on equal terms, and 
shake his hand ; and her rival might smile up in 
his face unreproved, while she herself, whose lips he 
had often kissed, was cowering away from his sight. 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 5 

and would never feel the touch of his dear hand 
again. And then Georgina jumped out of the pony- 
carriage, and she and Vincent disappeared into the 
station together. Xannie felt her heart tighten 
suddenly. ' Yes,' she said to herself, ' the ring must 
go back. It is all quite over and done with, and 
she can do more for him than ever I could. And 
he — perhaps lu has liad to do it.' For she had 
caught a glimpse of her lover's face, and she saw, 
alas ! only too clearly, that, looking at Georgina (who 
was all love and pleading, poor thing, as any one 
could see) there was none of the rapture, the tender- 
ness, the joy unspeakable, which she had known in 
his smile when he had gazed at herself. ' He looked 
at her,' said Nannie, with a great sob, ' as I shall 
look at Alick — as I shall look at Alick ! ' 

Much later on the same day, when she had 
achieved nothing, and could hardly endure herself 
for weariness and grief, Nannie was still lingering 
about the cliffs, watching the fall of the twilight, and 
wondering at the traces of the storm. She had not 
in the morning visited that horrible precipice where 
she had last seen Alick ; but a spirit in her listless 
feet turned her thitherward now, and with a sort of 
dreary pleasure in reviving hateful emotions that at 
least might waken her from the ' wan and heartless 
mood ' into which she had fallen now. ' If I could 
even be angry with Alick as I was then \ ' she said to 



6 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

herself. But it was not to be angry with Alick 
that Nannie had come hither to-day. 

' My God, my God ! ' said the girl, with a little 
cry, carried away by the blast unheard into the 
falling gloom, ' Alick is there ! ' 

It had come suddenly at the last, the moment 
she had been expecting; for which she had given up 
lover, and home, and brethren, her hope, and her 
happiness. She had found Alick ; and she knew 
only too well what significance the fact would have 
for him. He was there on the dangerous, narrow, 
little path below Dr. Verrill's house, overhanging 
the sea. And a great repugnance and a great fear 
overpowered her ; she turned to flee noiselessly and 
unperceived by the man she had come to save. At 
any moment Alick might see her, and there would 
be no escape. She looked round, but no one was 
in sight. She had cut herself adrift from her lover ; 
had given him no knowledge of her extremity. 
No rescue that was not too late could reach her now. 
Vincent was not there; nor any one. Nannie crushed 
herself against the rock, and looked fearfully at 
Alick again. 

Why was he there on the edge of the cliff where 
it overhung a boiling flood lashed to fury by the 
barrier which the crumbling rock still offered to its 
advance ? A fall there meant death. It had been 
death to Dick Boulter's lass long ago ; it had near 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 7 

been death to Nannie herself not many days since. 
Such things were done at Everwell ; the place was 
handy for drowning folk ! Nannie did not know 
the part that overhanging precipice had long played in 
Alick's unbalanced imagination ; but she realised at 
once that now, leaning over, his arms extended, his 
head thrown back, his eyes closed, he was at this 
moment in danger. Had not Nannie feared that 
deserted, despairing, distraught, his conscience seared 
and his courage gone, Alick was the man to destroy 
himself for grief ? Thank God — oh, thank God, she 
had come in time ! 

Yet what to do ? How to rescue without 
startling him out of all self-possession into the very 
evil she sought to avert ? She could not tell what 
was going on in his mind — what thoughts he was 
thinking of herself even. ' He may hate me — think 
me a curse. If I call, if he sees me, he may flee, he 
may slip — and there on the cliff's edge — Oh, God, 
I should throw myself after him. I should not be 
able to bear it ! ' 

Nannie crushed herself back into the shadow 
where he could not see her without coming away a 
little from the precipice. Her limbs were quiver- 
ing, and she was white as any leaf ; but she steadied 
her lips, and with voice harsh indeed but true and 
clear, she sang the first thing that came into her 
head — 



8 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

' My Father's house on high, 
Home of my soul, how near. 
At times, to faith's far-seeing eye 
Thy golden gates appear ! ' 

Alick moved his head. He had heard and re 
cognised the song — the voice perhaps. He was 
listening. Nannie sang on, gaining confidence — 

' Here in the body pent. 

Absent from Thee I roam ; 
Yet nightly pitch my moving tent, 
A day's march nearer home.' 

The songs of Zion had become memories to 
Alick; the golden gates a dream, the body a 
dungeon of torment. With a long heart-piercing 
groan, his arms crossed upon his breast, he sank on 
his knees to listen. Nannie could see his face now 
— worn and wasted, his eyes lost in dark caverns. 
She sang again, her voice stronger and sweeter 

now — 

' For ever with the Lord ! 
Amen, so let it be : 
Life from the dead is in that word, 
'Tis immortahty.' 

And again the sweet, sad refrain, with its yearning 
repetition at the close — 

* Nearer home ! A day's march nearer home ! ' 

' Nannie T said Alick, in a soundless voice, which 
yet reached her somehow. She moved a little, 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 9 

detaching herself from the shadow, her hands held 
out and a welcoming smile in her soft eyes — an 
angel of healing and hope. 

' Are you there, Alick ? Did you hear me sing- 
ing our dear old hymn ? ' 

He came to her then. Nannie took his hands 
in hers and led him to the quiet shadow. She sat 
on a low rock, and he sank at her feet, his hand 
still in hers. And for long neither of them spoke. 
The waves plashed sullenly at the foot of the rocks, 
and Nannie could see the fishing-boats putting out 
to sea under the wild clouds of a doubtful evening. 
After a time Alick stirred a little and let her see 
his face, already more natural in expression and 
hue. She smiled down at him. 

' Hast thou forgiven me, Nannie ? ' asked Alick. 

' Ay, dear lad,' said Nannie, all except that 
suffering face receding from her memory. 

' Art thou my lassie ? ' he questioned, hesitat- 
ingly, but with a flush coming on his cheek and a 
flickering light in his dull eyes. 

'Ay,' said Nannie. He raised himself on his 
elbow and looked at her. 

' Thou wilt not leave me ? Thou art my lassie 
— my sweetheart ? ' 

' Ay. Thou may'st kiss me, Alick, if thou wilt.' 

Never was a more quiet, chastened kiss, but it 
meant her doom to Nannie, though not a change 



MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 



came to her pitying, steadfast face. And then again 
there was silence, and together they watched the 
cobles going out to sea under the stormy clouds. 



CHAPTEE II 

' Come, Alick, let us go home. You are starved with 
cold, lad, and so am I.' 

He rose without a word and stepped beside her. 
He looked fairly like himself now, and Nannie's 
fright had subsided. 

' Thou art sure thou art my lassie ? ' he repeated, 
smiling at her. 

' Yes, Alick,' replied Nannie, gravely. 

' Then it were fitting I should thank God,' he said, 
stopping and uncovering his head. 

' A deal can happen all of a moment, Nannie,' 
said Alick presently. ' I have been in darkness and 
sore trouble, but I have won out into His light 
again ; and I have heard His voice saying, " Thou 
hast been faithful, poor sinner, in a few things, and 
now I have brought thee an exceeding great reward." 
And I had not heard His voice for many a day, 
Nannie.' 

' Dear Alick ! ' 

' I thought I saw a gleam of a white angel's 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO II 

wing this morning. I might have known I was 
winning through. When I heard thee sing, Xannie, 
I understood then as He had brought me back.' 

* From where, dear lad ? ' 

* I have fared Hke my Master, Nannie. I have 
been driven into the wilderness to be tempted of 
Satan.' 

I think you are sick and hungry, Alick. You 
have been star\ing in the wilderness. You may 
have a good plain loaf now and a butter pat, as a 
reward for not turning the stones into food.' But 
her smiles were a little too soon, 

'There were worse temptations nor that,' 
muttered Alick ; and she heard his teeth grating on 
each other. The gloom that suddenly enwrapped 
him, even as the stormy clouds had settled upon the 
sea, renewed Nannie's anxiety. 

' What were the temptations, lad ? ' she said, 
thinking he would tell her the drinking story, and 
that she would be able to pronounce absolution. 
There was a long silence. Nannie glanced at her 
companion half nervously. At last Alick spoke. 

' The devils drove me down the town, Nannie, 
where I had laboured and preached the Gospel, and 
they showed me the men I would have died to save, 
cursing me, and sinning, and cursing God. They 
never saw me ; I was close to 'em many a time ; 
and my heart was broke and bleeding.' 



12 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

' Why do you say devils drove you ? It would 
have been better to show yourself and speak to the 
men ; but what you did had no sin in it.' 

'Ay, it was devils. They kept telling me how 
the men had thrown stones at me, and had chased 
me from them, till I could scarce keep my hands 
from throwing stones at them. There was a little 
lad — Tim Laverick — I found alone one day asleep 
on the scar. I stood a long time over him, Nannie. 
He had led off in cursing me and throwing mud at 
me. And he had a little throat ' 

' Don't, Alick. I don't like it.' 

'The little lad never waked, Nannie. But I 
came away and did him no harm.' Again Nannie 
glanced at her cousin nervously. Yet this talk of 
devils was merely his old trick learned from the Fil- 
grims Progress and his eye for making weird pictures. 

' But the parson were the worst,' muttered Alick 
under his breath, looking round suspiciously. 

' Who ? ' asked Nannie, frightened and not 
catching the name. 

' The devil who moved me against him was 
mighty. I have followed him and laid plots against 
him. Nannie, have I not cause to hate yon man ? ' 

' No, Alick, you mustn't go over it ! I don't 
know what man you mean, but ' 

' Him,' said Alick, jerking his thumb in the 
direction of the church ; or of the Heights. 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 13 

' Sir Vincent ? ' cried Nannie. Alick started as 
if he had been struck, and walked away a few 
steps. Nannie, aware of her folly, went up to him 
and drew his arm again round her. 

' I have done with yon man, Alick ! Never thou 
trouble thy head about him no more. It is thou I 
will have, and will be loving to all the days of thy 
life. There is no call for thee to be angry with Sir 
Vincent, or to make never a single plot against him. 
Alick, promise me. Oh, I love thee, lad. Kiss me 
as often as thou wilt, and promise me ! ' 

She protested too much, and Alick saw through 
her. He laid his head on the rock and there was 
a groan in his voice as, after a long shuddering 
silence, he replied brokenly — 

' I warn't thinking of thy Vincent, lass. Don't 
thou be fearful of me, Nannie ; I have won 
through.' Nannie was no miracle of self-possession, 
and disabling and blinding panic was invading her, 
though she preserved her outward calm. 

' Dear lad, I do think you have been very ill,' 
she said, ' and the first thing it is right for us to 
do is to climb up that little path together and get 
Dr. Verrill to feel your pulse, and say where we 
are to go, and what we must do, and what I'm 
to get for your supper. Come, Alick, come, my own 
dear Alick.' 

'I will not go to Dr. Verrill,' said Alick, gloomily. 



14 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

He sat down again and let her hand drop. * I see 
Sir Vincent's horse go along the road towards 
Tanswick/ said Alick, under his breath ; ' I'm 
thinking he'll be coming back from the train. And 
I will wait here, to see him! 

' What dost thou want to say to Sir Vincent ?' 
cried Nannie. 

' Thou canst go home, lassie,' replied Alick, 
bitterly ; ' I can do my errand to Sir Vincent 
easier without thee, who art a darling to the two 
of us.' 

' Oh, Alick, what do you oiiean ? ' groaned the 
girl. There was silence again ; Alick's head buried 
in his hands, and Nannie praying for some one to 
help. Presently he resumed in a loud voice, of 
which the agitation sounded like fury to Nannie. 
' I dragged myself to his house to-day to have it 
out with him. He was gone to Faverton, seeking 
thee, I'm thinking. I had to wait ; and now 
maybe there's less need, now thou hast given thy- 
self to me. But he's coming along this road, and 
before I dare take my happiness — it's maybe my 
duty — I will stop him and do it now. But I will 
not have thee by, Nannie. Go thy ways, lassie, 
and him or me shall tell you the end of it.' Nannie 
sprang to her feet, seizing his hands and pressing 
them to her breast. 

'Alick! sweetheart — husband! I cannot leave 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 15 

thee alone here with Sir Vincent ! ' she cried with 
terror-stricken eyes. 

' Don't be hindering me, girl,' shouted Alick with 
sudden rage ; ' it was not for that I told thee. Go 
and leave me to pray for strength.' 

' Oh, Alick, Alick ! ' moaned Nannie. He turned 
from her and lay with his face on the ground, 
murmuring, ' Go, lassie, for kindness' sake. It will 
burst my heart to do it with thy sweet self by.' 

It occurred to Nannie that her best hope was 
in running herself towards Tanswick to warn Sir 
Vincent. * He will tell me what to do ! ' she 
thought ; ' but oh ! what a way of meeting him ! ' 
She left her cousin hastily, climbing up the steep 
path. But Alick, all his senses alive, divined her 
intention, and quick as thought followed and over- 
took her. 

' Dost thou think, lass, I cannot run quicker 
nor thou along the Tanswick road ?' asked Alick 
with a laugh, holding her trembUng form with 
a grasp of iron, and swaying her backwards and 
forwards with a gentleness which at any moment 
might change to fury. Nannie turned obediently. 
Dr. Verrill was her only hope now. Then Alick 
went back to his lair in the shadow of the Little 
path's turn, and Nannie, looking down, could see him 
crouching there, his eyes fastened on the narrow 
hemmed -in road above, along which she would 



l6 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

have had to pass to give warning, and along which, 
in a few moments now, Sir Vincent would come 
trotting carelessly on the bay horse Pegasus. Nannie 
was too much frightened to know exactly what she 
feared. She made for the pink -painted cottage 
with the gaunt windows and the scientific garden. 

Over the uneven ground sped Nannie, as fast as 
fear would suffer her ; the three minutes seemed 
ten to her terror, and as she ran she cried aloud for 
help. It was nearly dark now, and the road was 
deserted. 'Lord have mercy, Nannie, whatever's 
the matter ? ' cried fat Mrs. Blake, the baker's wife, 
who was alone in the post-office. But Nannie 
heeded nothing ; she dashed across the doctor's 
garden, pulled the door-bell, and rapped desperately 
with her knuckles. ' Doctor ! oh Dr. Verrill, come 
out ! ' cried the girl ; but there was no answer. 
Never, in an emergency, was a more useless man 
than Dr. Verrill. Nannie fancied she heard voices 
behind the house, and went round, edging her way 
rashly, for the pink cottage had little space between 
it and the precipice. She looked down, shuddering, 
to see that Vincent had not yet come, and that 
Alick was still waiting. But certainly, yes ! two 
persons had appeared in sight, walking along the 
short cut towards Tanswick. The first moment of 
relief was so great that Nannie's eyes were blinded 
with tears, and she thanked Heaven aloud. Then 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 17 

she swept her hand across her eyes, and stramed her 
sight to see who the people were, and if there were 
really good prospect of help in them. Ah ! one 
was Mr. Bryant. Again she felt relieved ; a gentle- 
man like Mr. Bryant would know what to do, nor 
would he pass Alick without greeting. Nannie 
noticed without heeding it that the voices of the 
two men were angry, and that they were in- 
terrupting each other as if in dispute. Once — 
could it be possible ? — her own name floated up to 
her. ' Who is that other man ? ' thought the girl ; 
' it is like the gentleman who "spoke to me at the 
Heights. But oh ! help has come ! ' She might 
have gone down again now, but to say the truth, 
repugnance filled her at the thought of returning to 
that miserable Alick. No ; she would linger till 
Sir Vincent came ; and she could watch and see 
what the gentlemen would do to her cousin. 

But the two men were entirely engrossed in 
their disagreeable conversation, and they stopped to 
finish it instead of walking on past Alick and up 
into the road again. Nannie could see them plainly 
now ; Mr. Bryant flushed and angry and agitated, 
his voice loud and his dignity forgotten ; Mr. Kane 
angry and nervous too, but cool enough. And 
Nannie saw something more; that Alick had for- 
gotten Sir Vincent, and, unobserved and stealthy, 
had crept quite close to the pair, and unseen by 
VOL. Ill 41 



1 8 MR, BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

them, was listening to their talk. And they were 
standing just at the most dangerous part of that 
dangerous track ; the very place where she had 
found Alick an hour ago ; where the rock overhung 
and the angry waves of the rising tide boiled below. 
Some of the conversation reached her. Her own 
name again. Mrs. Bryant's. Nannie felt that for 
her to intrude now was impossible. Good heavens ! 
could the gentleman be telling Mr. Bryant that .? 
And then the waves roared again, and Nannie, who 
had heard nothing connected, heard no more. But 
Alick heard. Something intolerable, — some slander- 
ing lie about his Nannie, flung desperately from the 
clergyman's lips ; Nannie, spotless in her integrity 
and purity, but who was to be submerged now in the 
inky overthrow of her mother's shame ; Nannie, who 
was to be labelled 'worthless,' that none should soil 
his fingers by investigating her name, her history, 
her birth. With a yell that tore the air, Alick 
threw himself upon the liar. 

Alas for Nannie ! What followed was never 
distinct to her memory. Mercy blinded her aching 
eyes and deafened her straining ears. She had no 
power of comprehension for the scene. 'Alick! 
Alick !' she shrieked, but she was far above, and her 
voice was drowned in the roar of the billows, and 
the groan of the night wind storming round the cliffs. 
Mr. Bryant was a large and powerful man, but 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 19 

the blow had been too startling for effectual resist- 
ance. He fell upon the path, striking his head 
against the wall of rock with sufficient violence to 
render him for a moment helpless. Mr. Kane in- 
terfered ; but it was an instant's work for the 
strength of distraction to seize the light slender 
figure of this man, who had confessed vile things in 
the hearing of the uncompromising prophet of 
righteousness. ' Alick ! Alick ! ' shrieked Nannie 
from above ; but the thing was done, and Frederick ' 
Kane's old sins had met their reward. He and 
his interference had disappeared, and Alick had 
turned again upon Mr. Bryant. The two men 
rolled together on that narrow ledge of rock ; Nannie 
fled towards them, but her agony could avail nothing. 

She was the first to see Sir Vincent, how- 
ever. He had leaped from his horse upon hearing 
the cries from below. He had seen his uncle's fall 
had understood all at a glance, and was ready 
to act. But Nannie intercepted her lover. ' No — 
no — no ! ' she screamed, throwing herself across his 
way, ' not you ! I cannot bear it ! cannot bear it ! 
cannot bear it 1' 

'Nannie, for God's sake let me go!' said Vin- 
cent, and then by force he unlaced her clasp upon 
his arms and flung her aside. 

' Oh my own darling !' he said in a choked voice 
of Love's remorse, as Nannie tottered and fell. 



20 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

But lie left her and descended swiftly to the 
scene of struggle. 



CHAPTER III 

Mr. Bryant's strength was pretty well used up, and 
when Alick, unresisting now, had been securely 
bound so as to be altogether powerless, Vincent 
sent the clergyman to Tanswick for assistance. He 
had himself looked over the cliff and seen that Mr. 
Kane's figure, still moving a little, had rested on a 
ledge close to the seething waves, and in danger 
soon to be swept off by them. Vincent turned 
doubtfully to Nannie, who had crept down to his 
side. 

' I must go and see what has happened to my 
uncle,' he said ; ' will you be afraid to stay here for 
a few minutes ? He cannot move, you know,' he 
added, in a low voice. 

'I am not afraid,' said Nannie. 

' You will call if you want me ? Alick, listen ; 
you will not say or do anything to frighten Nannie 
till I come back.' Vincent lingered, in his heart 
afraid to abandon the defenceless girl. Then Alick 
opened his hollow eyes and looked up. He had 
quickly given way before Vincent, recognising a 
master. 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 21 

' I'm myself again now, sir,' he said ; and added 
brokenly, ' God knows I was fearing something of 
this sort. Nannie will tell you I had gone this 
day to pray you to shut me up for fear. And I 
was waiting here • now to ask you to do it. God 
knows why it never came into my head to give 
myself up to none but you. And I suppose it's 
the gallows will be the end of it now,' groaned 
Alick. Vincent looked at him with the silence 
of great compassion. ' If you had come five 
minutes sooner, sir ' murmured Alick again ; ' I was 
waiting to give myself up to you. I had told my 
Nannie. And I sent the lassie away, lest I should 
falter for the love of, her.' 

* Oh, AHck, and I did not understand you ! ' 
mourned Nannie, laying her hand on the poor 
bound, shakinfT fing;ers. 

' We'll soon have you yourself again, AHck,' said 
Vincent, gently. ' Yes, I wish I had been five 
minutes sooner, my poor friend ! But we mustn't 
be too downhearted. I daresay my uncle is little 
the worse. Will you and Nannie take care of each 
other, while I go and help liim up after his tumble ? ' 
He left them unwillingly, climbing down to the 
edge of the waves. 

' Nannie,' murmured Alick, ' if the man isn't 
much hurt, wilt thou forget it, lassie ? They was 
saying evil things of thte, Nannie, and I could not 



22 MR. Bryant's MISTAKE 

bear it. And thou hadst just kissed me of thine 
own free will and given thyself to me. If the man 
isn't much the worse, ^N'annie — Nannie — wilt thou 
be my lassie still ? ' 

' I will, Alick/ said Nannie, sadly. 

He closed his eyes again, and Nannie sat beside 
him while the darkness descended and folded 
them in its wild embrace. It seemed long before 
Sir Vincent returned, looking himself now much 
agitated and shaken. 

' Is he asleep ? ' he asked, glancing at Alick. 

' I don't know. Well ? The gentleman ' 

' Is dead', said Vincent, in a low voice. 

It was raining, and they sat together drearily 
without speaking, and watching Alick, who had 
opened his eyes as the last words were uttered, and 
who kept them open now with a strange expression 
of dumb anguish. Vincent took off his coat and 
wrapped it round Alick's starved and quivering 
form, but no one spoke again. 

When at last the sound of help from Tanswick 
was heard above, Vincent touched Nannie's hand 
for a moment and raised her to her feet. 

' Leave us now,' he said ; ' there is no more you 
can do.' Nannie looked at the stricken Alick with 
grieving eyes. Then she pressed his cold forehead 
with her lips. As she moved slowly away, she 
stopped and looked back at her lover, who was 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 23 

leaning over Alick and speaking to him ; but 
feeling her glance, Vincent raised his head for a 
moment, and for the first time his eyes and Nannie's 
met. 

Vincent never told any one till long afterwards, 
the full detail of what he had witnessed down there 
on the edge of the waves ; for the wretched sufferer 
had died in his arms, but not without involuntary 
and uncontrolled horror at the roaring waves en- 
croaching upon the narrow ledge which had checked 
his fall. The place and the manner of that end 
were appalling, even without the few semi-conscious 
sentences, which were surprising and revolting to 
Vincent yet the germ of explanation and wild 
hopes for Nannie and himself And when the 
Arch Fiend had suddenly ended the final struggle, 
and the corpse had been with difficulty sheltered 
and secured from desecration by the waves, Vin- 
cent stood shuddering and looking at the dead 
man, alone there on the margin of the storm, 
hardly daring to avert his eyes from the ghastly 
sight, or to induce himself to abandon it to the rain 
and the spray and the din of the obstructed waves. 
But he remembered dear Nannie waiting with her 
no less fearful charge above ; he was getting dizzy 
himself here on the edge of the precipice, so close to 
the whirlpool ; and a great longing to be with the 
woman he loved surged up in his mind. He 



24 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

covered the dead face and made his way up the 
steep of the rock again. Once, half-way, he fancied 
he heard a movement below, and paused to look 
back at the still figure he had left, half expecting 
to see it stir, or hear it cry. But it was an illusion ; 
and another minute brought him to Nannie's restora- 
tive presence. He longed to take her natural, 
beloved frame in his arms, and warm his heart 
against the beating of hers ; but there were those 
woe-struck, deeply conscious eyes of the grieving 
Alick to restrain him. He could only sit by her 
side ^nd feel her near and know that they were 
suffering together. That silent watch with its un- 
spoken sympathy drew their souls nearer together 
than all their half playful courtship, with its 
mingling of sighs and smiles, fancies and fears. 
Now, if never before, the very depth of their being 
was stirred ; and for Vincent at least nothing could 
ever undo the force of this hour and these surround- 
ings ; and there was no question of gentleman and 
lady with him again, but simply of man and of 
woman whose souls had been wedded by irresistible 
affinity. 

And then Nannie had kissed Alick's forehead ; 
and she had looked at Vincent with a strange en- 
treating, despairing gaze, in answer to the restrained 
passion of irrevocable love in his. And she had left 
him. 



.-l.V EXTINCT VOLCANO 25 



CHAPTER IV 

' There is one question I wish to ask/ said Vincent, 
looking at John Randle, ' about a matter which 
seems intimately connected with all this — Who is 
Nannie ? ' 

The two young men and Mr. Bryant were in the 
library at the Heights, and on the sofa lay the 
white covered form of the dead man, Frederick 
Kane. 

Mr. Bryant was in a condition of trembling 
nervousness, easily attributable to his share in the 
scene upon the cliff, but caused in reality by a con- 
viction that the long-dreaded moment of exposure 
had come. He had locked Emma up in her room 
for the present, but so unstrung was the miserable 
woman that he knew she could no longer ward off 
suspicion, even if her unhappy history had not 
already passed into other people's knowledge. Eor 
himself he was agitated, shocked, terrified ; had had 
no time to get up a plausible version of affairs ; had 
no idea how much was known ; could not even re- 
member his own words and deeds, so as to be 
sure all or any had been consistent with a mere 
knowledge that Emma had once had a daughter 
who had died at a year old. Mr. Bryant was so 



26 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

conscious that he hated N'annie — the memorial of 
his meanest action — that he thought every one must 
know this hatred. Would not everybody ask him, 
' Why ? ' And he had no satisfactory answer ready ; 
while he was hesitating and blundering some one 
would say out the truth. 

Mr. Bryant, however, had no intention of con- 
fessing one word more than was necessary. Like a 
whist player, he had entered upon a game moment- 
ous to himself and others, with no knowledge of the 
cards of his fellow -players. From their play he 
would have to guess their position and to shape 
his own; and every card he laid down would be 
irrevocable and would be remembered against him. 
From his youth up Mr. Bryant had been skilful 
and fortunate at whist ; the recollection gave him 
courage at this supreme moment ; though of a truth 
his mere nerves were so shaken that, like a drown- 
ing man ready to catch at any straw, he was in a 
mood to be rash from desperation. Mr. Bryant was 
still surveying and sorting with dismay his hand of 
miserable cards — never an honour among them — 
when the game began. Sir Vincent led with the 
question, ' Who is Nannie ? ' It was fortunately 
not yet Mr. Bryant's turn to play. 

John Eandle, after a pause, replied that he had 
heard nothing to prevent his believing that Nannie 
was his sister. 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 27 

' But you have heard something ? ' said Vincent. 

' So iu seems, sir ; have you ? If you choose to 
say it out, I can't help myself, but it appears to me 
a stirring of mud to no purpose. It don't bring 
Xannie no nearer to you that I know of,' he said, 
insolently. 

' We are all too nearly concerned to attempt im- 
possible mysteries,' said Vincent ; 'besides, Alick will 
not spare us to-morrow.' 

' Then, sir, you had mavbe better ask Mrs. 
Bryant. It's little I know of the matter ; and if 
my father washed his dirty linen at home, I don't 
feel inclined to send it to the laundry. I suppose 
he had a right to bring up Nan as his daughter if 
he chose ? and if he hadn't mentioned the matter 
in the morning, it wasn't likely he'd volunteer it in 
the evening.' 

Vincent looked inquiringly at Mr. Bryant ; but 
that gentleman, who had marked every word of and 
every inference from the young farmer's speech, 
merely said, leaning his brow on his hand, ' Spare 
me, Sir Vincent. Surely you must conceive that 
this is the most painful hour of my life.' 

' It appears to me, sir,' repeated John, ' if you 
want to get at the truth you'll have to question Mrs. 
Bryant herself, for she's the only one left who knows 
much about it. My father's dead and buried, and 
his knowledge with him. This corpse here might 



23 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

have told you part of the story, but it's little you'll 
get out of him now.' 

Vincent still looked at Mr. Bryant, as if expect- 
ing him to speak. The clergyman felt himself sus- 
pected. He rose, and said with dignity — 

' Insult the dead, if you choose, John Eandle ; 
but not one syllable shall be uttered in my presence 
against my wife.' Eeseating himself, he resumed 
his attitude of dejection. 

' I take it, sir,' said John, in a stage whisper, 
' putting two and two together, what I've heard from 
the Governor (precious little) and so forth, that the 
parson was never informed of the true state of affairs 
between his wife and her former husband, as she 
called him.' 

' I think,' said Vincent, addressing the clergy- 
man, ' that we must ask you to speak. Mr. Eandle 
and I have some claim to be put in possession of the 
facts. When my uncle alluded to the matter to 
me he was past speaking distinctly ; but he cer- 
tainly seemed to assert that Nannie was his daughter 
and that Mrs. Bryant was her mother. He appeared 
to have had some wish to claim her. I remember 
to have heard accidentally from Miss Bryant or from 
my mother, on your daughter's authority, that Mrs. 
Bryant had been a widow. Am I to understand 
that my uncle — ' 

Mr. Bryant pulled himself together. He had 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 29 

been annoyed by Georgina's tattling about her step- 
mother. Perhaps after all she had played his game. 
' My dearest wife/ he said, calmly, ' passed as the 
widow of an American gentleman named Grant who 
was drowned, as we all believed, in the wreck of 
the Philadelphia a year before our marriage. Inves- 
tigation had revealed to me that Mr. Grant had 
deceived her, and that there had been no legal 
marriage. She was childless, and I never conceived 
it necessary to distress her or her brothers with the 
knowledge of my painful discovery. Her innocence 
from first to last was complete.' Mr. Bryant was 
pleased by this speech. It sounded almost well. 
It showed Emma in a harmless light ; himself in a 
generous one ; and it was very nearly the truth. 

Vincent merely raised his eyebrows. John 
Eandle, however, who had no patience with great 
delicacy of feeling or speech, burst into a laugh. 

' It's a wonder she took the trouble of concealing 
her child then,' he exclaimed. 

Mr. Bryant swept his brow with a pained expres- 
sion. ' I have not yet,' he said, ' dared to question 
my beloved Emma as to the meaning of that rumour. 
A child ? She had no child. I never heard of a 
child until this evening.' 

' Mary Smith they called her,' said John ; 'she 
was reared in our house and is buried in Faverton 
churchyard.' 



30 MR, BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

' That child ? ' exclaimed Mr. Bryant ; ' what a 
strange confusion ! Oh, I can explain it now. The 
child you speak of was daughter of a woman named 
Matilda Smith, who died at her birth — a cousin of 
my wife's.' 

' Anyhow, sir,' repeated John, turning to Vincent, 
'no proof has come up that Nannie is her, and I 
cannot for the life of me see what we'll gain by 
seeking proofs at this time of day. If the brat's 
mother was ashamed to ow^n her at first, I guess 
she'd be so still' Vincent was not listening 
apparently. 

' Grant, you say ? ' he said to Mr. Bryant ; ' the 
man Grant then, it appears, was my uncle ? ' 

' So, to my unspeakable horror, I have learned to- 
day,' said the clergyman. 

' From Mrs. Bryant ? ' 

' From Mr. Kane first. Then from my wife.' 

' But she was an innocent woman,' sneered John. 

' Entirely innocent. Injudicious in her silence, 
no doubt. My poor Emma ! I saw she had some 
cause of distress lately.' 

' Pardon my pressing you on such a painful 
matter,' said Vincent, still thinking of Nannie ; ' you 
are convinced there was no marriage, Mr. Bryant ? ' 

' I am most thankful, as it turns out, to be able 
to say I am.' 

' Will you oblige me with the facts ? ' Mr. 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 31 

Bryant stated them briefly. He was on firm ground 
here. (Confirmation of this part of the history 
being subsequently found among Mr. Kane's papers, 
Vincent was obliged to relinquish the sudden and 
cherished hope of leading to his mother a welcome 
niece bearing her father's name. Even Xannie 
would have come into favour in that position, as 
Vincent easily surmised. But the hope was illusive 
and short-lived.) 

' You still think her an innocent woman,' sneered 
John again. 

* You will not repeat that remark, if you please,' 
said Vincent. 

Mr. Bryant volunteered the information that he 
had been intimately acquainted with Benjamin 
Eandle and with Emma till within three or four 
years of his marriage with her ; they were simple 
people, of whom it was easy to conceive theii^ ha\ing 
been deceived ; to imagine conspiracy on their part, 
especially on Emma's, was impossible ; there was 
total and absurd misconception in this story of a 
daughter. 

For Mr. Bryant intended to terrorise his wife 
into denying the child altogether. His ready wit 
had surely saved both their characters, now that 
the kind grave had removed Ben Piandle. E^ddentlv 
the young Piandles knew notliing distinct ; and Mr. 
Kane's investigations, which he had asserted to have 



32 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

been successful, but had never had time to report, 
remained unsuspected, except by Mr. Bryant himself. 

But John still held a trump. He turned im- 
patiently to Sir Vincent. 

' Well, sir,' said the young farmer, ' I don't wish 
to offend you, but whatever Mrs. Bryant says now, 
she confessed it all to Nan a few days ago, and went 
down on her knees to the girl, to persuade her not 
to tell the parson, because he held the opinion, as 
we see ourselves, that she was an ' 

' Who told you this ? ' interrupted Vincent. 

' The lass herself.' 

' Nannie ! Perhaps I should inform you,' said 
Vincent drily to Mr. Bryant, 'that Alick has a 
different story.' 

The clergyman was in a great predicament since 
John's last item of information. But now he only 
smiled sorrowfully and said, 'That unfortunate 
madman ! ' 



CHAPTEE V 

To Mr. Bryant's annoyance John Eandle contrived 
to liniier behind with Sir Vincent. There was a 
sort of quarrelsome sympathy between these two. 
John said with awkward friendliness — 

' You are pretty well done up, I take it, sir, by 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 33 

this day's work. The best of us has to put limited 
liability to the prospectus of his strength.' 

Vincent smiled, and admitted that he had been 
rather more active than he had intended, consider- 
ing that yesterday he had still lounged on the 
sofa. 

' I went to Faverton to look for Kannie,' he said. 
' You have told Mrs. Eandle that she is here ? Your 
wife was anxious.' 

' Sir,' said John, ' I hope you'll remember what I 
said just now, that nothing we have heard to-day 
makes me give up Nannie for my sister, and in all 
your dealings with her you'll have to reckon with her 
brother. Maybe that silent gentleman in the room 
with us didn't understand that his sweetheart had a 
brother too; maybe my father, who is silenced also 
and can't explain himself, didn't defend his sister 
like he ought. But we'll have no mistakes in our 
generation.' 

' I think you and I understand each other pretty 
well,' rephed Vincent, his eyes resting thoughtfully 
on the dumb companion to whom John had alluded. 
' One thing I am sure of — that Nannie is a 
different person from Mrs. Bryant, and your sister's 
best safeguard is in her own character. It is a trite 
saying that a man is what a woman makes him. 
Mind,' he added, ' I am not hinting at any palliation 
of my uncle's conduct. He does not appear — so 

VOL. Ill 42 



34 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

far as I can see at present — to have done his part 
with even ordinary fairness and generosity ; nor, to 
say the truth, from my knowledge of him, am I alto- 
gether surprised. He found a pleasure in trampling 
upon weakness. But, Mr. John Eandle, that is a 
game which gives no pleasure to me ; and I repeat, 
^N'annie is not Mrs. Bryant. You may trust us both 
unreservedly. It may be a satisfaction to you,' he 
added, smiling, ' to know that I got no opportunity 
to-day of speaking to Nannie.' 

' And to-morrow,' said John, ' I mean to send all 
my three sisters to Faverton. You will oblige me, 
sir, by letting the girl be till she has got over this 
shock. It's enough to upset a young creature, and 
prevent her knowing what she's about on any 
matter.' 

' Well, said Vincent, ' will you tell Nannie, 
that as soon as she wishes to see me I am at 
her service ? Stay, I will write it.' He took a 
pen — 

' My Darling — Your brother promises me that 
you shall not be persecuted or distrusted. When 
may I come and speak to you ? ' 

He handed it open to John to deliver. They 
shook hands at parting, and John delivered this 
love-letter punctually. 

For to-night Nannie was with Alick's mother. 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 35 

^Irs. Leach was the woman thoroughly to appre- 
ciate a tragedy. It pained her unmensely, but then 
it afforded such magnificent opportunity for display- 
ing her qualities that she could hardly wish the 
occasion away. Her performances could not be 
called affectation, for she went through them also 
when she was alone. But she dearly loved a spec- 
tator ; and when she could get no other, she pressed 
one of her children into the service. Lizzie, im- 
pelled by a fascinated horror, was the most avail- 
able. She could sob beautifully to order, and when 
her mother pulled her long lank hair pathetically 
down, she did not fly into a passion like Polly, or at 
once plait it up again like the unromantic Sarah. 
But when Nannie came in, Lizzie would clasp her 
hand convulsively and whisper between the acts of 
the drama, ' I am sure mother is crazy. I do believe 
mother is crazy. Oh, Nannie, I am so afraid we 
shall all go crazy.' 

Nannie, and Sarah who obeyed her like a dog, 
got supper as usual, and gave the children treacle 
with their bread, and encouraged Mary Anne and 
Jimmy to squabble as to who got the most. Mean- 
while Mrs. Leach sat by the window with a cup of 
tea at her side, in which she suffered neither milk 
nor sugar, her Bible open on her knees at the 
Lamentations of Jeremiah. She had removed her 
gown and robed herself in a black shawl ; the sun- 



36 MR. BR YANTS MISTAKE 

bonnet which she usually wore indoors and out, was 
thrown on the floor and her long gray hair was 
hanging down. It was an admirable tragic instru- 
ment. Now and then she twisted long wreaths of 
it distractedly, and wound it round her head, or her 
throat, or carried it across her brow like a sabre- 
cut ; with masses of it she wiped her streaming 
eyes ; now she would throw it all violently behind 
her and clap her hands to her temples ; and then 
she would tear it out in handfuls and fling them on 
the floor at her feet, very much vexed when Sarah 
swept them up in a dust-pan and burned them in 
the fire. 

* l^annie, Nannie,' sobbed Lizzie, ' she acts like 
the girl Alick cast the devil out of, who tore her 
hair and made faces. If mother begins to make 
faces I shall scream. I know I shall.' 

' Take Jimmy's fingers out of the sugar-bowl,' 
replied Nannie, calmly. 

She sent the children off as soon as she could, 
and wished she might get away alone to be silent 
under the great woes that had come upon her. 
Standing at the window looking out at the stars and 
trying to think, a shudder passed down her frame, 
and she saw the whole horrible scene over again. 
And she thought of the dumb anguish -stricken 
eyes with which Alick, now come to himself, had 
gazed helplessly and hopelessly at her, as she sat 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO yj 

between him and Sir Vincent, who was her lover 
too, and afraid to look at her in the presence of 
that silent sufferer. But every minute Mrs. Leach 
called her niece, and Nannie had to put off her 
own woe to help and strengthen the distracted 
mother. 

' That it should come to this I ' wailed Ann 
Leach, bowing herself on the girl's kneeling form ; 
' my blessed boy ! who was filled with the Spirit 
and taught the way of salvation to his poor, unholy, 
untruthful mother ; to be reviled, and spit upon, and 
punished for a thing as it stops my heart-throbs to 
think of.' 

' Oh, aunt, no — no — you must not say it. It was 
not our Alick's real self who did it. And the man 
provoked him, aunt ! saying things against ^nu — 
Alick's sweetheart — and them belonging to me ! ' 

' Oh, my dear, my dear ! whatever have you been 
doing to let folks get speaking against you ? Oh, 
Xannie, Nannie ! I have been a sinful woman, and 
I have suffered pangs, and I've buried two husbands, 
and I thought I had wept more than any woman 
above ground. But what is loss of husbands and 
sorrow for sins beside this ? My blessed boy, who 
had spoke God's truth of thousands, and now he's 
ruined himself for ever ! ' 

She tore off her two wedding rings and other 
movable articles and flung them disconsolately on 



38 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

the floor, and then she sobbed and sobbed till even 
Nannie grew frightened. 

' Let me read to you, aunt. Dear Alick's favour- 
ite chapters in the Eevelation ' 

' No, Nannie, the Lamentations. There's words 
in the Bible meant for every one, and Lamentations 
is meant for me. I am not angry, my dear, if you 
cannot feel it like me. He was only your sweet- 
heart. He was not the son of your womb ; he never 
sucked at your bosom, and learned his prayers first 
at his mother's knee. He never was the hope of 
your life, and twice the stay of your widowhood. 
Bead from the Lamentations, Nannie ; there's noth- 
ing else could be fit for a woman like me.' But 
just then Mr. Bryant came in, presumably on a visit 
of consolation. 



CHAPTEE YI 

Alas ! poor man 1 no one could look more wretched 
and downcast than he, whose worst sufferings were 
perforce unconfessed. Nannie's gentle soul pitied 
him, and she would have lingered out of pure sym- 
pathy, had he not dismissed her with some imneces- 
sary harshness. Always this hateful girl in his 
way ! He was in no condition to endure her intru- 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 39 

sion to-night. 'It is you who have been at the 
bottom of all this/ he said ; and was glad to see that 
the words stabbed her to the heart. But the girl 
went, and he turned wearily to Mrs. Leach. 

' N'o farcing, Ann, I must beg ; any one can 
understand that Alick's crime is very painful to you. 
I feel it and all its accompaniments too keenly to 
require any stirring up of the feelings.' 

' Oh, dear me, sir ! It ain't crime. It's his 
poor head.' 

'That is what will be put forward as an excuse. 
Sir Vincent Leicester fortunately concluded long ago, 
from your son's religious extravagance, that he was 
insane. I, and other persons acquainted with 
fanaticism, did not share his opinion. Alick is no 
more mad than I am, or than I should be, had 
I accustomed myself to obey every impulse of my 
fallen nature, under that most blasphemous delusion 
that I was inspired. Do you follow me, Ann ? ' 

' Oh dear, sir, let me call ISTannie to argufy you ? 
What do you mean by fallen nature ? Alick never 
had that anyhow — ' 

' Come now ; his inspirations were always 
synonymous with his inclinations, weren't they ? 
For instance, he was a clever speaker, with a love 
of notoriety.' 

' Xo more hadn't he that ! He was a signboard 
of modesty ! ' 



40 MR. BR YANTS MISTAKE 

' A love of importance then ; so lie believed him- 
self inspired to preach. Again, take this matter of 
his marriage. He was in love with an unsuitable 
young woman ; light in her conduct and certain to 
bring misfortune — as she has — upon one so correct 
and severe as Alick.' 

'Lord bless us, sir, what are you saying of 
!N"annie ? ' 

' I have no doubt — in fact, I know — that your 
son remonstrated with the girl ; if he had not been 
possessed by that monstrous delusion he would have 
recognised her worthlessness.' 

' It ain't true ! ' began Mrs. Leach, but he checked 
her. 

' Allow me to speak, Ann. Alick is not the 
first man who has been led astray by a thoughtless 
woman ; he considered himself inspired to reform 
and marry this girl, and he has pursued her till she 
has achieved his ruin.' 

' It ain't true ! ' said poor Ann again ; but he 
continued remorselessly — 

'Again, circumstances of various kinds, many 
of which I regret extremely, have contributed to 
render Alick unfriendly to myself. Still possessed 
by this notion of inspiration, he did not struggle 
against the sinful feeling. Unfriendliness ripened 
into hatred. That hatred spread, and cankered his 
whole nature. He took upon himself to judge me 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 41 

as a minister of religion — wished to remove me. 
That was not so easily accomplished. Then the idea 
of murder presented itself. My dear Ann, you start 
at the word. Eemember the deed was attempted ; 
only prevented by accident ; and a second murder, 
not, I believe, deliberate, has been actually com- 
mitted.' 

' Oh, my poor, poor boy ! Oh, his poor, poor 
head ! ' groaned Mrs. Leach. 

' I can conceive,' pursued Mr. Bryant, ' how the 
idea appalled him when it came to him first ; I 
daresay he tried to put it away. But it recurred 
again and again, until — alas ! for human nature — 
it began to seem attractive ; he found himself 
considering plans for. its accomplishment ; and 
there were times when he fancied he had a commis- 
sion from Heaven to do this wicked thing.' 

' Law, Mr. Bryant — to kill you ? ' said the woman. 

' Exactly ; and proofs that the crime was pre- 
meditated will, unfortunately, not be wanting, Ann. 
Singular purchases that he made at Uggle Grinby ; 
singular gestures; singular lyings -in -wait about 
my house when he had given the impression that 
he was far away. One evening he forced his way 
threateningly into my study ; I thought him intoxi- 
cated and turned him out ; but he had a knife 
in his hand. He was a clumsy and cowardly 
criminal, poor wretch, about tliis his first crime. 



42 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

But in a legal sense, Ann, I cannot admit that 
your son was insane. Now, if I tell all I know 
of Alick, and give the melancholy history of the 
religious presumption which has led to his fall, 
those who know anything of human nature — 
and remember he will be tried by sensible men, 
by strangers, uninfluenced by his popularity here, 
or by Sir Vincent's ignorant prejudices — will not 
hesitate to pronounce him accountable for his 
actions, and to bring him in guilty.' 

Mrs. Leach for once was affected beyond the 
consoling power of any posturing. She looked help- 
lessly at her visitor, her face ashen and her eyes 
staring and expressionless. Then she burst into a 
groan. ' Oh, sir ! ' she cried, ' I'll go to dear Sir 
Vincent and all of 'em, and say what I have known 
since his babyhood, sir, of his poor head.' 

'Ann,' said Mr. Bryant, sitting down and taking 
her hand with a kindness that was not altogether 
insincere, ' do you remember, a week or two ago, 
how Sir Vincent brought a doctor — a specialist — 
here to examine Alick's condition, and he asked you 
many questions about your son's health, and about 
his head, as you call it ? Do you recall your 
replies ? ' 

'■ Mr. Bryant, sir, I am a sinful woman. Alick 
told me many a time that I was an untruthful 
sinner, and I'd be punished. The Lord knows 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 43 

I've repented of my sin, and I'd take the pledge 
against lying if any one would minister it to me. 
Mr. Bryant, when I answered yon specialing 
doctor, God knows I was lying half the time. It 
seemed to me a wicked and a shocking thing for 
'em to want to make out my blessed boy a madman^ 
and to come to his mother to baptize ' (she meant 
confirm) ' such an ugly notion. I couldn't bring 
my tongue round the right answers ; and no more 
couldn't Nannie, who never spoke a lie in her 
life. But now, Mr. Bryant, I'll up before all the 
world, and I'll tell the whole truth about his poor 
head, and the trouble it's been to me all along ! ' 

' And who will believe you, Ann ? ' questioned 
the clergyman. 

' I'll say,' said Mrs. Leach, rising in a magni- 
ficent pose and stretching out her hands to heaven, 
'* Oh, men and women, who have blessed children of 
your own, and know you would damn yourselves to 
save them, I lied to preserve my son from the 
madhouse ; but I speak the truth now to save 
him from the gallows-tree." ' 

' My poor woman,' said Mr. Bryant, ' they will 
say that, with your small instinct for truth, you were 
more to be trusted when there was no such tre- 
mendous issue at stake.' Mrs. Leach fell on her 
knees and prayed aloud. 

' My God, my God, I will never lie again ! 



44 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

Only save my boy — my blessed, innocent, suffering 
boy, who is Thy servant through it all.' 

' Ann, for Heaven's sake, rise ! ' said the clergy- 
man; ' this is blasphemous. God's name must not be 
dragged into this miserable tissue of crime and 
fraud,' cried Mr. Bryant, covering his face with his 
hand. 

Mrs. Leach dragged herself to his feet and 
knelt before him. 'Mr. Bryant, ask Emma how 
a mother's heart feels. You won't come forward 
against my boy ? ' 

' I must state facts.' 

' Facts can be stated so as to mean and make 
folks think what you choose. That ain't lying any- 
how ! You can tell the facts you talk of, and make 
folks think they mean the poor dear was wild 
when he acted so. Man ! ' cried Ann Leach, ' I 
have kept a secret for you, and it's only common 
justice, if you know anything as would harm my boy 
when he might be saved — it's only common justice 
as you should keep it secret for me.' 

It was the point at which Mr. Bryant had 
been aiming. Yet now that it had come, it shocked 
him. He was playing with a man's life, for the 
purpose of saving his own character. Hardly even 
that, for Ann Leach's unsupported word would not 
be sufficient to blast his character. 

Mr. Bryant hesitated. He was playing a part 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 45 

intolerably mean and base ; and hardly even neces- 
sary. Should he give it all up, even now at the 
eleventh hour, and let the whole truth come out ? 
Mr. Bryant hesitated ; enamoured of repentance, and 
far more moved than he had intended to be, by 
Ann Leach's grief. 

He walked to the window and looked out 
on the night, dull and black like his own erring 
soul; the one short flash of moonhght quickly 
swallowed again in the murk and gloom of cloud. 
If he came away without bribing Ann Leach 
to silence he knew he would repent his weakness 
on the morrow. After all he was frightening rather 
than hurting her ; for in his heart he expected 
Alick's acquittal, and had little intention of insisting 
on the points against him. 

' Have you kept our secret, Ann ? ' he asked 
suddenly ; ' it has gone about.' 

' I never told no one nothing,' cried the woman 
with indignant emphasis, ' till I saw the bitter grief 
of that poor, childless woman, your wife, Mr. Bryant ; 
and I did give tier a hinkling about Nannie.' 

' You did very wrong in saying one word to 
Emma. She has blundered grievously. A sus- 
picious person would form most evil conjectures 
from her conduct. She has compromised herself 
altogether, and in a way that is compromising to 
me also,' said Mr. Bryant with emphasis. 



46 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

'Well, I never heard you go on at your wife 
before ! ' cried Mrs. Leach. 

' She has led me into a most horrifying trap. 
I have learned to-day only, that that miserable 
man ' 

' I knew that long ago ! ' exclaimed Ann, de- 
lighted ; ' and you didn't, Mr. Bryant ? ' 

' I ? What do you take me for — you and Emma 
— that you allowed me to come into his vicinity for 
a moment ? ' 

' Maybe Emma didn't know he was here,' inter- 
rupted Ann, frightened for her sister-in-law by his 
indignant gravity of utterance. 

' Know ? She refused to meet him ; invented a 
headache — what not ; I believe she deceived me. 
You too, Ann — you have been treacherous from 
first to last.' 

Mrs. Leach never flew into passions ; when 
others became heated, she was cool and wily. At 
the present moment she smoothed her apron, neatly 
twisted up her hair ; recovered her wedding rings 
from the floor and put them on. 'Maybe,' she 
said remorsefully, ' I was a bit stupid to tell him 
all about Nannie.' 

' You told him about ]N'annie ! ' exclaimed Mr. 
Bryant. There was a silence. 

' Come now, Ann, you have been false ; and you 
and Emma herself owe me some reparation. I 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 47 

believe I can be of assistance to your son, but if so 
you shall pay me for it.' 

' Well, may be/ said Ann, not discomfortably. 
Even then it took him some time to get the words 
out ; they sickened him. 

' Emma has shown one spark of generosity. She 
has not dragged me into this scandal. Very well. 
You, Ann Leach, shall not contradict her.' 

' Lord have mercy on us ! ' ejaculated Mrs. Leach. 

' Woman,' said Mr. Bryant, in great agitation, 
' your nature can have no conception of what the 
naked truth would entail for me ; the suspicions, the 
inferences — Besides the mere truth is damnatory. 
You led me into a piece of cheating which I have 
never ceased to curse. You changed those children 
and — you fool — you made me aware of it.' 

' I never see such a man ! Whatever was the 
harm, Mr. Bryant ? ' 

' No harm, in a sense, if you had carried it 
through properly — if you hadn't taken to drink and 
put people on the scent. I speak folly. There 
was this much harm, Ann Leach ; if that transaction 
were known, my character would be gone for ever. 
Harm ? Of course there was harm. It was a 
vulgar fraud ; unworthy of a man, heinous in a 
clergyman, impossible to a gentleman.' 

' I never see, such a man ! ' repeated Mrs. Leach, 
in dismay. 



48 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

' Now listen to me. You shall pledge yourself, 
here and now, no matter who asks you, when or 
where — you shall pledge yourself to say what Emma 
says, and what I intend to say ; and what there is no 
one left to contradict : That I married and lived 
with Emma in ignorance of her previous history; 
that I never knew of her daughter till to-day. If 
the children were changed, she did it herself; or 
you ; or Sarah ; or Ben. / knew nothing of it. I 
married a childless widow. And I will do all I can 
for Alick.' 

Half-an-hour later, Mr. Bryant left the house. 
He was ghastly to look at, and he trembled from 
head to foot. But he was victorious. He had the 
woman's oath. Surely this time — for her son's sake 
— she would be true ! ' 

' My God, my God ! ' he groaned, ' into what 
utter degradation I have brought myself! But it 
is nearly over. How thankful I am that Georgie's 
match is off. We must flee from the place, and 
Heaven grant I may never see one of these people 
again. God knows I will act no more in this sort. 
And I will make it up to my poor Emma.' 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 49 



CHAPTEE VII 

But his work was not yet ended. There was a 
lower depth yet into which he must descend. He 
had still to silence his wife. 

Inconceivable though it seem, Mr. Bryant loved 
his wife. Her very helplessness appealed to him. 
He never could keep up his wrath against her 
without an effort. And now that he came in, 
bruised after the campaign with that dreadful Ann 
Leach, and found poor Emma crushed and heart- 
broken, he would have given all his wealth to be 
able to take her in his arms and show her that their 
troubles were for ever at an end. 

On the contrary, he had to mete her a cruelty 
that a week ago he would have deemed impos- 
sible. 

He seated himself gloomily by the table, looking 
at her, his head on his hand. She cared for and 
understood little except that he was displeased. 

' Xed — Ned,' she said, tremblingly, ' I did try 
to tell you, and you stopped me. You were angry. 
You wouldn't Listen.' Mr. Bryant was silent. 
'He said he was croins: awav — never to come 
back.' 

' Emma, it was horrible.' 

VOL. Ill 43 



50 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

' You were so taken up about Georgina and Sir 
Vincent ' 

' Say no more. Each word makes it worse. 
You have brought about a crash.' 

' Let us go from here.' 

' We must.' 

' It was — for Nannie,' she began, timidly. 

' Exactly ; you have sacrificed me to her.' 

' Ned ! how sacrificed you. It is only me. No 
one will think worse of you! 

' Nonsense.' He walked up and down the room 
impatiently. He was exasperated by his fate ; by 
the turn events had taken, which made some sort of 
escape possible for himself by the sacrifice of this 
dear, gentle woman. 

' Ned, how could any one think ill of you 
for it ? you, who were so kind, so generous to me — 
so ' 

' Good heavens, don't speak of kindness and 
generosity,' he burst forth. 'We won't have any 
more high fainting and tall talk. We will give up 
trying to be better than our neighbours. We will 
strive after nothing higher than practical sense and 
worldly success.' 

' Do you mean ' 

' Why look you how it ends ! ' cried the clergy- 
man ; ' look at your nephew : this Alick Eandle, who 
is spending the night in prison. I swear to you he 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 51 

was an honest man — more honest than ever I was ; 
a religious, God-seeking man, more than ever I was, 
though, to be sure, I knew the way of God more 
perfectly. But extremes meet. He sought to be 
too good, and he has ended in imposture and in 
murder. I tell you Heaven itself does not smile on 
too much goodness. The wise man found it out, 
and is not he with his sarcasms reckoned one of 
the inspired writers ? " Be not righteous over 
much ; neither make thyself over wise : why 
shouldest thou destroy thyself ? " It is what we 
have done, Alick Eandle and I. We have strained 
to heights impossible ; and failing, ruin stares us in 
the face.' 

' Dear Ned, I do not understand.' 

* No ; you never understand. You have lived 
with me all these years, Emma, and you do not 
know me in the least. You have not gauged my 
limitations, my shortcomings. Fool, why did I not 
recognise them myself ? AVhy did I make myself 
a priest, a successful and applauded one ? righteous 
overmuch — when all the while this moral crash, 
which has come to-day, was possible to me ? I tell 
you, Emma, it is as much ruin to me as Alick's 
frenzy and police-cell is to him. I cannot meet it 
I am bankrupt. It will bring degradation to me. 
The limitations of my nature are such that if I am 
robbed of responsibility, cast from my position, dis- 



Lf ;rary 



52 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

honoured, pronounced a cheat and a liar — I shall 
be powerless to begin life again ; to go aside humbly, 
and repent and accept my chastisement meekly. 
I could not live in that position. I should defy 
Heaven, and from righteous overmuch, I should 
grow apace to evil abominably. Don't trouble, 
Emma, to say you do not understand me. I know 
it. I talk to you in the bitterness of my soul, 
because there is no one else I can talk to.' 

' And it is all my fault ? ' said Emma, mourn- 
fully. 

' I don't know. Yours or mine, what matter does 
it make ? Yours or mine, or neither's ? Enough 
that it has come, and that the days of my righteous- 
ness are ended.' So he raved ; and then he let her 
talk in her gentle, foolish way. 

' Oh no, Ned, no. Is there nothing we can do 
to turn this aside from you ? You have done no 
wrong. You have sacrified a great deal for me. It 
was my fault. The beginning and end of it was 
my deserting the child. God has punished us for 
that. But it is over now. The world knows 
about it. I have her. I will do my duty to her 
now.* 

' Emma, Emma, will you never have done ? 
Always back to this ? Do not madden me about 
the child to-day. She is well provided for. She 
has not suffered. But disgrace i,s confronting yon, 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 53 

Emma, and myself; and my daughter, who is ab- 
solutely unconnected with these events. She will 
be disgraced and shipwrecked too in the scandal — 
my poor, innocent, ignorant Georgie !' 

' Oh dear, Ned ! why ever did you marry me ? I 
would not have injured Georgie for all the world. 
I always tried to be a mother to her. How ever 
will she suffer ? ' 

* If / lose my reputation.' 

* And all along of me ? But what can we do, 
Ned ? You can't cut me off from being your 
wife,' 

' I am not sunk so low as that, Emma,' he said, 
with a bitter smile. ' No, no, we are gray-headed, 
almost old. I suppose we don't seem much like 
lovers. But we love each other, do we not ? ' — he 
took her hand and drew her to him — ' with a love, 
Emma, that would survive even great blasts of mis- 
fortune ? ' 

* Oh, Ned, yes — yes. Your true, lasting love has 
been the best thing in my life. I wish I had been 
more worthy of it, Ned. Will you forgive me, 
now ? ' 

* Forgive you .? My God !' He rose, putting her 
from him. 

Presently he spoke again in a different tone. 
* You do not, Emma, sufficiently consider the re- 
marks which will be made on that acquaintance you 



54 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

had allowed me to drift into. My love, it is incon- 
ceivable that the truth will be accepted. Your folly 
there was monstrous ; it would not be believed pos- 
sible ; at least not on the supposition that we were 
open with each other on that whole frightful chapter. 
It freezes my blood to imagine what may be 
suspected. The man hanging about here, day after 
day, for no ostensible reason ! Vincent disliked 
him ; Lady Katharine and he had not one taste in 
common ! Will it not be asked, if he was not re- 
newing acquaintance with you ? Good heavens ! if 
you had perhaps kept up a clandestine acquaintance 
with him all along ? ' 

Mrs. Bryant turned very pale. ' Ned, I'd die 
rather than have you or any one suspect that.' He 
drew his arm round her again. 

' /, Emma, suspect you ? Never. But, my love, 
if it were supposed that we were not frank with 
each other on that affair ; that you or I — one of us 
— had believed you his wife — would not your 
hdrrible perplexity — your hesitation — your silence 
— be partially understood ? I don't wish to dwell 
on that, Emma,' he said, hurriedly, shocked at him- 
self ; * it only just occurred to me. Let us dismiss 
the subject.' 

' I am sure, Edward — unless it was to hurt 
Nannie — I would do, I would endure any tiling for 
you ; and Georgie,' added poor, unreasoning Emma, 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 55 

with an effort. He was silent, and Emma waited 
patiently. She did not understand his suffering, 
but it moved her. His anger was what she dreaded ; 
what she felt unable to brave, except very occasion- 
ally for her child's sake. 

* Emma, we must leave this place immediately, 
and go to another where we are not known. If 
possible, you shall take your niece, Nannie, with 
you ' 

' Nannie ! 

' — and the whole object of my life shall be 
to make up for what I have made you suffer, to 
deserve the good opinion men hold of me. We will 
go abroad, I think ; and if I can save my reputation 
we shall be happy still. Alas ! Emma, I cannot 
prevent your sad history from being know^n here. 
Thank Heaven, it is an innocent one ! But there is 
a way in which yoiL can save me ; which means, in 
a sense, saving us all.' 

' Only tell me, Ned.' 

* You shall have your Nannie, if I can get her 
for you,' he repeated. 

' Oh yes, Ned. Only tell me.' 

* So long as we are here, you would have 
seriously to lie a little.' She paled. 

* Is that what you meant about righteous over- 
much ?' 

' I have to be disgracefully frank w^ith you, 



56 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

Emma. But you seem to have lied already acci- 
dentally.' 

' Dear Ned — how V 

' You told the girl that / did not know of your 
child ; that / had believed you that brute's lawful 
wife.' 

' Oh no, Ned. I never said so.' 

' I have it on Nannie's authority.' Mrs. Bryant 
pondered. 

* I told her not to speak of it to you/ she cried 
with agitation, ' for I knew you'd be mad with me 
for telling her. It was to help her against Sir 
Vincent.' 

' She understood you in the way I said. It is 
what they all think. Leicester, young Handle, 
Nannie, Alick.' 

' Think I took you in about it ?' she cried, in- 
dignantly. He nodded. 

' Well, Ben knew better than that ! ' 

' Ben is dead 1 ' 

' Ann then ! ' 

* Ann is a notorious liar.' 

* But is every one going to turn against me like 
that ? You, Ned, didn't you tell them ? ' 

' We, might say the same,' said Mr. Bryant in a 
low voice. 

Presently he told her all. ' Emma, I must con- 
fess what I have done. I was asked suddenly. I 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 57 

was ignorant that you had disobeyed me, that you 
had spoken of these matters to any one. I thought 
I could spare you much remark ; much suffering. 
I said it was nonsense about a child ; that your 
infant was still-born. I had always told you Mary 
Smith could not be acknowledged. And then, to 
my dismay, I learned that you had confessed to 
j^annie. Emma, you disobeyed me, and secretly. 
You were wrong there.' 

' Well, Ned ? Ned, we cannot help it now.' 

* No ; but if I am not to admit to Sir Vincent 
and to young Randle that I lied — my love, you do 
not know all it would entail ! — you must fall in for 
a week or two with what / said ; with what they 
have all understood from your own words : that I 
veritably was ignorant of that wretched child's 
existence ; that I was unaware, or that you believed 
me unaware, which comes to the same thing, of the 
illegality of your marriage with Mr. Grant.' 

' I couldn't bear any one to think I had used you 
so, Edward,' she whimpered. 

' Pshaw ! No one will care a pin how we used 
each other. I know the truth — isn't that enough ? 
And if there is a bit of a cackle, you sha'n't hear it.' 
He was adroit at making the worse appear the 
better reason, at least in addressing a helpless, 
affectionate woman, who had little foresight for con- 
sequences, and was used to trusting him implicitly. 



58 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

' I cannot explain the whole thing to you, my poor 
Emma, nor the misfortune for us all which I wish 
to avert. It can be done in this way and in no 
other. I should not propose it, if you had not 
yourself accidentally done the thing already. My 
love, in a month we shall be far away, and honest 
and happy again. Is it so much to ask of you ? ' 
Then changing his tone — 

' Or — or would you torture me into betraying 
you ? Good heavens — on the spur of the moment, 
with the idea of protecting you, Emma, I have 
pledged myself to that statement ! and if you do 
not fall in with it — Good God, I am a moral 
bankrupt ; I have no power of truth left in me ! 
/ migJit say you lie ! and, Emma, it is I who would 
be believed — not you. I beseech you, Emma, do 
not put me into that temptation. Have I not 
humbled myself enough to you ? I tell you solemnly, 
I have no power of truth left in me. I am bankrupt.' 

* I will say whatever you wish, Ned,' said Emma, 
at last, aware that she only dimly understood his 
motives ; aware too that he was her all in life ; 
' only,' she pleaded, ' let us come away from here, so 
we need never have to be false again.' 

' Oh, Emma, forgive me !' groaned the miserable 
man, on his knees before her. 

' You have to forgive me too, dear Ned ! I have 
been such an unlucky wife to you. I never was 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 59 

fit for the grand folk,' said Emma, already falling- 
back into trivialities. 'We sha'n't go no more 
among grand folk, Ned, shall we ? I can't help 
wishing Georgie was married, and then you and me 
could go back to our old ways ; and Nannie would 
be a daughter to us.' 

Poor Emma ! to the last nourishing Hope on 
Illusion. 

CHAPTEE VIII 

Alick was committed for trial at the approaching 
Assizes, much to the distress of all the people with 
whom we are concerned ; Mr. Kane's family, with 
the exception of Lady Katharine who mourned for 
her brother, being less dismayed by the man's 
tragical end than by the publicity and scandal to 
which it had given occasion. The circumstances, 
with all their romantic accompaniments, got into 
the newspapers, and the case attracted a good deal 
of attention. Mrs. Bryant's history, greatly ex- 
aggerated and blackened, became public property. 
It was horrible to her husband, and far worse than 
he had expected, but he had gone quite too far to 
draw back now. He opened all his wife's letters 
and forbade her to look at a newspaper, so she was 
never aware of half the terrible things said of her. 
Housed in a dream, she suffered comparatively little. 



6o MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

The only conversation she had with any one on the 
subject was with Sir Vincent, who came to her one 
day and asked her bluntly, but not unkindly, if all 
these things were true. 

'iN'annie's mother?' he questioned. 

How often she had said the words tenderly to 
herself and had longed to acknowledge the fact. 
Truly she had been a deceived and innocent woman, 
and she had come by the child innocently enough ! 
She had never felt very guilty about it. When 
Vincent, without sign of agitation, or loathing, or 
contempt, such as she had been bidden to expect, 
asked her that simple question, she looked up quite 
frankly and answered, ' Yes.' He was silent for 
some time, studying her. Was it possible she could 
be the guilty woman she was represented ? 

' They tell me,' said Vincent, ' that there is no 
proof that she is not Nannie Eandle in fact as well 
as in name. Is that so ?' 

' Mr. Bryant says so. But I know it. She is 
like ' 

' She is like my mother,' said Vincent, with a 
smile. He was so friendly that poor Emma talked 
on of it. 

' It must have been some dreadful mistake of 
my brother's wife. I cannot think any one meant 
to deceive me.' 

' That is less difficult to imagine,* said Vincent, 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 6i 

' than some things that have been asserted.' He 
had stared at her in astonishment ; she was certainly 
incurably stupid, but could mere stupidity account 
for her extraordinary innocence of manner ? 

'What things?' asked Mrs. Bryant, rather 
alarmed, for she knew she had a part to play, and 
was always afraid of forgetting to do it. 

Then Vincent said the blunt thing, for which his 
manner atoned : that she had deceived her husband. 

The poor thing grew pale and would have fled ; 
but with an effort restrained herself and repeated 
her lesson. 

' It had not seemed to me exactly probable,' said 
the young man, drily. Mrs. Bryant was alarmed, 
for his manner betrayed incredulity. 

* Oh dear, Sir Vincent,' she said, with agitation, 
' do ask Mr. Bryant how it all came about, and he'll 
explain everything to you. It is dreadful to have 
to say such things, but it would be worse to have 
any one think ill of Mr. Bryant, who has been so 
kind and so generous to me, and is such a really good 
man himself,' she ended, indistinctly. What she 
meant was not very clear, but Vincent was touched. 

' I will accept whatever you say, Mrs. Bryant,' 
he replied, ' only if there was anything you would 
let me do for you ' 

But Emma gave him no further explanation or 
even hint. 



62 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

Mr. Bryant, in fact, established his case, or by 
judicious hints and silences, got it established for 
him without the smallest difficulty. No one had any 
claim to pry into the details, to test the links in the 
chain ; to demand, as it were, chapter and verse for 
his quotation. Old Lord Henslow, indeed, who was 
very angry with Vincent about everything, com- 
plaining that all the misfortune and all the scandal 
were his fault, had repeatedly asked what he had 
meant by putting such a man as Bryant into the 
living. He undertook to visit the clergyman and 
find out every fact of his history. ' No one can 
deceive me, you know,' he said ; ' I am not a boy to 
swallow everything I am told.' 

But he came home with his tune completely 
changed. Mr. Bryant had taken him very coolly, 
making him feel inquisitive and impertinent. Still 
the clergyman had not absolutely refused to speak, 
and all his utterances were entirely credible and 
consistent and plausible. And he was so evidently 
a man of refined feeling ; honourable to an excess, 
and guileless ; so much attached to his inferior wife, 
and really, it seemed, unable to believe in the fact of 
her monstrous conduct. Under cross-examination, Mr. 
Bryant's story would probably have broken down ; 
but it completely deceived the self-confident old 
gentleman. He was quite taken with Mr. Bryant, 
and having a distant view of tJie clergyman's wife. 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 63 

saw in a moment the miserable sort of person she 
was. 

'I tell you what, Katharine/ he said to his 
daughter, 'Vincent wasn't such a fool as I thought 
about that parson. He's a fine fellow, and a chivalrous 
fellow, and a clever fellow ; and I'm monstrously 
sorry for him. Not a gentleman by birth, of course 
— he confesses that at once ; but I have a pro- 
digious respect for any man who has made his way 
upward. If some one would poison off that odious 
wife of his, I declare I'd present him to a living 
myself; something better than this savage place. 
And what a fine girl his daughter is ! ' 

' Poor dear Georgina ! ' sighed Lady Katharine. 
It was a great thing for Mr. Bryant to have got 
Lord Henslow to credit his statements. Everybody 
saw at once that no other view of the case was even 
possible. In fact, no one but Vincent dreamed of 
doubting the clergyman. Why should they ? Mrs. 
Bryant, it seemed, told the very same story. Nannie 
had told the same story. Ann Leach told the same 
story — with variations, of course ; no one expected 
her to give precisely the same account of anything 
twice. Alick alone, who had overheard the talk 
between Mr. Kane and Mr. Bryant about Mary 
Smith, declared that the clergyman was lying ; but 
Alick had sunk now into a condition of gloomy taci- 
turnity, and would not, or could not, explain himself. 



64 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

Alick was proved to be either mad or desperately 
wicked, and no one would have thought of minding 
him, even if he had cared to tell all he had heard. 
And he did not care. The conversation had not 
been important in his eyes ; it was not sufficient to 
excuse what he had done himself, and it faded now, 
if not from his memory, at least from his thoughts. 
He had 'killed a man. Alick could think of nothing 
else at this time. He was as Cain ; lie had killed a 
man. What else could possibly matter ? 

At this time Mr. Bryant went about in the 
parish with his usual industry, his usual kindliness, 
and more than his usual almsgiving. He preached 
weekly in the schoolhouse, and in a simple, hearty 
style, which the people liked. One address was about 
poor Alick's fall ; and he spoke of the wretched 
deposed prophet without disrespect but with pious 
horror, showing up ruthlessly his errors and char- 
latanism. The greater number of his hearers had 
been all along in passive opposition to Alick, and 
were much impressed ; a few from among the fallen 
prophet's converts were in a state of abject bewilder- 
ment, and hoped they were now doing well in allying 
themselves to the authorised minister, while they 
offered timid prayers for the man whom they had 
trusted to have been he who should have redeemed 
Israel. Mr. Bryant dealt tenderly with these 
wounded souls, and made them feel his sympathy. 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 65 

He did not at present attempt much with the up- 
roarious restoration crew, who were still drinking 
themselves drunk in the beer-house, and had abjured 
all religion, — a vain thing which led to murder. 
These were a difficult problem, and Mr. Bryant's 
chief desire at present was to irritate no one. 
He imported the young curate from a neighbouring- 
parish to preach for him on Sundays in the church 
nave, the chancel being screened off and under re- 
pair. In too great distress of mind was the vicar 
to do anything very public himself. Poor Mr. 
Bryant ! It was easy to understand his sorrowful 
air, his retirement, his pale and suffering face. 
Every one knew his attachment to his wife ; what 
a love match it had been ; how unswerving had 
been his loyalty to the uninteresting woman, whose 
inferiority he must have perceived. It was shock- 
ing to think of the blow these revelations must have 
been for him. From very intimate friends he re- 
ceived letters of delicate condolence. The delicacy 
of his own expressions in reply was beyond all 
praise. It was touching the way he identified him- 
self with the poor woman's disgrace, — never allowed 
himself to be betrayed into hints of censure. He 
stuck to it valiantly that in the matter of her main 
offence she had been merely innocent and deceived. 
He could get no one to believe him, but he stuck to 
it — publicly at least. To a clerical brother (of 
VOL. Ill 44 



66 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

some importance) whom he was able to see, he ex- 
pressed himself apparently with less reserve. 

' Surely/ he said, passionately, ' the general char- 
acter must be taken into consideration in esti- 
mating a fault ! I will never again preach the 
common doctrine, of a little leaven leavening the 
whole lump. It is not so ; repentance may be 
genuine, sanctification may be progressing, while yet 
there remains some one sin unconfessed, unforgiven, 
unabandoned. Oh, my God ! ' said the wretched 
.man, ' tell me that it may be so ; tell me that His 
long-suffering forbears even with such.' 

The brother clergyman was much affected. ' Un- 
confessed to man — unforgiven by man,' he said, 
correctingly. 

' Yes,' responded Mr, Bryant with eagerness, 
' who can ever know what has passed between the 
soul and its God ? what agony of confession — what 
redoubled energy against sin in other directions. 
But to abandon the one sin — the fatal sin — may 
be impossible. Human nature is weak — which of 
us knows how weak ? God knows, and God's com- 
passion and long-suffering are boundless. It is so. 
It must be so. I shall never again dare to be posi- 
tive about the wrath of God.' 

' My friend,' said the other, ' I feel sure it is not 
with wrath that the King of Mercy hears you at 
this moment. But,' he added, being a man of great 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 67 

sincerity, 'it is inconceivable that such secret con- 
trition as you suggest, would not, if accepted by 
God, be followed by open abandonment of the 
transgression.' 

' Oh, my dear friend,' said Mr. Bryant, ' if it 
involved ruin for oneself and for one's best beloved ? ' 

Had that church dignitary had one suspicion of 
Mr. Bryant he might have given him the moral 
assistance he so sorely needed. But he was hitting 
in the dark, and he could not drive the nail home. 
He took up a quite erroneous impression, and, I 
fear, spread it. Poor Bryant's concern about his 
unhappy wife was greater than the occasion justified. 
What they had heard of her was bad enough ; he 
was convinced there was more which had not 
come out. Wretched woman ! It surely would 
have to come to a separation. Even if her repent- 
ance was assured, how could she continue in the 
position of a ^dcar's wife ? Who, knowing her 
history, would wish her acquaintance ? How could 
Bryant foist her upon ignorant people ? He was 
not the man to act in that hypocritical way. ]S"or 
could it be in any sense justifiable. And to tell the 
truth (remarks always ended in this way), she was 
a very vulgar woman. 



68 MR- BRYANT'S MISTAKE 



CHAPTEE IX 

Alas ! the vulgar have few friends. Emma Bryant 
had never attained to her husband's easy deportment 
in society, and it was her punishment that now 
every one turned against her with a feeling of 
relief. 

' I always said/ confessed Lady Katharine, ' that 
I disliked her. There is some satisfaction in know- 
ing there was good reason.' 

' Mother ! mother ! ' expostulated Vincent. ' I 
wish you'd go and see her,' he said, impulsively, ' and 
talk it over with her.' 

' My dear boy ! ' was Lady Katharine's very 
decided refusal. 

' Wliy do you take such an extravagant interest 
in her ? ' asked old Lord Henslow ; ' the ruggedness 
of the j)lace seems to have developed an extraordi- 
nary mildness on you.' 

' Why should we gibbet the woman ? ' 

' I certainly consider she should be punished,' 
said Lady Katharine, stiffly. 

' " Few have a right to punish, all to pardon," ' 
quoted Vincent. 

' I am always glad to pardon,' said his mother, 
' but if to decline further acquaintance with Mrs. 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 69 

Bryant be to punish, I think I have that much 
right.' 

' Is she never to speak to a respectable woman 
again ? ' asked Vincent. 

Lord Henslow put on his spectacles. ' She ap- 
pears to be a great friend of yours, sir. Pray, what 
have you done to express your sympathy ? ' 

' I went to see her. She seemed to me much as 
usual. What good could / do ? Do you suppose 
she would talk to me ? If my mother went to her 
with some sisterly compassion, she might get some- 
thing out of her.' 

' Sisterly ! ' echoed the lady. 

' What do you want to get out of her ? ' asked 
the grandfather. 

' Oh, I don't know. I have a strong feeling we 
haven't got to the bottom of it all yet.' 

' So have I. This tri- weekly TJggU Grinhy Record 
kindly stirs the mud for us. Has this paragraph 
anything to do with your interest in Mrs. Bryant 
and her belongings ? ' said the old man, stuffing the 
newspaper with its column of county gossip before 
his grandson's eyes. 

Vincent's hair stood on end as he read the thinly- 
veiled assertions. 

' Dear ! dear ! What have they put in this 
time ? ' said Lady Katharine, seeing her son's flush, 
and divining that it was something about Nannie. 



70 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

' That is a lie/ said Vincent, returning the news- 
paper, ' and I will have it retracted.' 

' My dear boy,' replied Lord Henslow, ' we have 
become public property. There will be no end to it 
if we begin denying the slanders our kind friends 
are putting into circulation. They are the penalty 
of greatness. Don't, for decency's sake, get into a 
controversy with a halfpenny newspaper. It is not 
such a very abominable suggestion, is it ? And it 
will be forgotten in a month.' 

Vincent made no reply. 

' Did you ever see this girl, Katharine ? ' asked 
Lord Henslow as the grandson left them. The 
sharp young ears caught the question, however, and 
Vincent put his head back into the room and called 
Lady Katharine to him. 

' Mother, you will kindly remember that what I 
told you of myself and Nannie, I told you in con- 
fidence. I do earnestly beg of you not to repeat it 
without adequate reason.' 

' But, Vincent, if, as you say ' 

' Mother, remember that Nannie has not ac- 
cepted my proposals, nor authorised the coupling of 
our names in the only way that is warrantable or 
creditable. Until she does so, talk of a relation 
between us may give rise to atrocious suspicions. 
I am determined that Nannie shall be subjected to 
no annoyance that I can prevent.' 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 7i 

' I wish I could think you had given it up, dear/ 
sighed the widow. 

' I shall never give it up. But I don't wish to 
force her consent, if I can help it. Don't assist 
this infernal gossip and slander to put us into that 
position.' 

* Oh, Vincent ! you forget to be civil even. This 
girl has come between you and all your respect for 
your family.' 

' Mother,' said Vincent, ' I love you, and you 
know it ; and I have a respect and an affection 
for all my relations ; but I seriously tell you, I 
should rather never see one of you again, than 
lose my wife. That will give you some notion 
of her importance to me ; and if I lose her after 
all, it will not be without suffering that my mother 
at least ought to respect.' 

For a little note had passed from Vincent to 
Nannie ; and a little one from her to him, in which 
she had said, ' No — no — I have given it all up, 
entirely and for ever. Don't ask me again. I will 
explain as soon as we can dare one little last talk. 
But I have no strength for it till this dreadful 
waiting time is over. Please forgive me, and bear 
with me till then.' 

And so, though Nannie was still in Ever well 
with Mrs. Leach, she and her lover had not met. 
Nannie was shy of criticism ; for as she wasn't a 



72 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

lady, none of her friends and neighbours hesitated 
to ask her questions or to intrude their comments. 
And she heard of the slander in the Uggle Grinby 
newspaper, but happily not till in its next issue she 
was able to read Sir Vincent's angry rejoinder. 
After this she hardly went out at all. To be 
catechised on that matter would be unendurable. 

It was wonderful, considering that by Mr. 
Bryant's precautions the vicarage ladies were kept 
in ignorance of the scandal that had arisen, how 
successfully Georgina (on the dear Baroness's au- 
thority) defended her father's cause. Mr. Bryant 
shivered when he heard of the thin ice she had 
skated over in talking to Lord Henslow for instance, 
and could not conceive how the Baroness had un- 
consciously told Georgina so many untruths most 
serviceable to him now. Perhaps he perceived that 
his daughter was his partner (and a very clever one) 
in this horrible game he was playing ; but such was 
his high opinion of her, that he never guessed she 
had peeped at his cards ; had listened at doors, 
questioned the servants, read the UggU Grinby 
Record, and otherwise made herself perfectly in- 
formed of the true state, not only of what was said, 
but of what Mrs. Bryant had long ago really done. 

Lord Henslow, perceiving her entire ignorance of 
these horrible exposures, was quite touched when 
she ended her artless tattle with a lialf tearful apology 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 73 

for repeating all this that the Baroness had told 
her. It was natural to her to talk of her dear 
father ; he was so devoted to his simple wife ! But it 
was a pity his Emma had so lost her beauty ; her 
ways were not always quite — Georgina would never 
be able exactly to make a companion of her. Oh 
yes, she and her stepmother were on excellent terms ; 
Emma was such a good woman, it would not be fair 
to be angry with her because she and her relations 
— well, were not quite what Mr. Bryant had sup- 
posed at the time of his marriage. And poor Mrs. 
Bryant had evidently suffered. Perhaps her first 
husband had been unkind to her. Georgina knew 
very little about him. Mrs. Bryant always seemed 
so nervous if any allusion were made to Mr. Grant. 
There was a sort of mystery about him. But papa 
himself had told her a little once ; enough to show 
what he had thought of Mr. Grant ; and how highly 
he valued and respected the poor woman who had 
been, it seemed, somehow ill treated. Oh yes ; Geor- 
ginaVas quite content to look at Emma with her dear 
father's appreciative eyes, and to love her for his sake; 

even if personally Mrs. Bryant was a little 

Old Lord Henslow was quite captivated by 
Georgina, and almost forgave her for having, 
fortvmately without success, set her cap at his 
grandson. Then Georgina confessed her utterances 
to her father, who listened aghast. 



74 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

' You have done no harm, my dear, in repeating 
that much/ he said, ' but do not, I pray, discuss my 
private affairs again. It is — my dear child, I may 
as well tell you there is an anxiety connected with 
this unhappy affair of Alick Eandle, which I may 
never be able to explain to you fully. You will 
oblige me, my love, by not at present exhibiting 
curiosity, nor by speaking of it to any one.' 

' Why mayn't I know, papa, if it concerns you ? ' 
' Some things, Georgie, are unsuitable for a young 
girl's ears. But if at any time I think it advisable, 
T will tell you myself.' For Mr. Bryant felt that 
Emma had to be protected from this splendid step- 
child. 

' You are quite off with Vincent, Georgie ?' 
' Quite, papa. We had a few plain words, and 
he knows why I have dismissed him, and what I 
think of him,' said Georgina, tossing her head. 
' We have really quarrelled, you know,' she continued, 
' only there is no good in letting that show. I could 
never forgive him his conduct, and I daresay he 
will not forgive me for telling him so. I must say, 
I should be glad to leave this place.' 

' We will arrange it, Georgie,' said Mr. Bryant, 
with a sigh. He had detected allusion to ISTannie 
in this speech, and did not inform Georgina that 
Mrs. Bryant wished to take the girl into the family. 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 75 



CHAPTEK X 

Vincent was vexed to find his grandfather on the 
scent about ISTannie, and enslaved by the attractive 
clergyman and his charming daughter. ' I have no 
sooner crot rid of Uncle Frederick,' he said, 'than 
here comes another of the family. I won't stand it.' 
He expostulated with his mother. ' Wliy has my 
grandfather taken up his abode here ? I don't want 
him. He'll be tumbling into the sea some day, and 
then we shall hear it is all our fault ! I really 
can't fence the cliff all round on his account ! If 
people can't suit themselves to Everwell, they had 
better stay away.' 

' He is such a support in this trouble,' said Lady 
Katharine, sighing ; ' why, Vincent, have you taken 
such a dislike to all your relations V 

' I don't dislike one of them in their proper 
place ; but why, because I am a youngster and my 
grandfather is a peer, should he come and live in my 
house without an invitation, and tell me what to do 
about every trifle ? I declare to you, much as I 
value the dear old gentleman's bones, I won't fence 
the cliff all round to preserve them !' 

'How can you laugh, dear, on such a subject ?' 

' Laughter is a safety-valve.' 



76 MR. BR YANTS MISTAKE 

' You and I never can talk now, Vincent, with- 
out bickering.' 

' That is a gross exaggeration, mother. We 
are very pleasant .together between times. But, 
mother dear, I cannot resist a desire to go to 
the devil, or on the return journey, in my own 
way. I am not intolerant of advice, generally,' 
laughed Vincent ; ' I like what you say very much 
indeed, as a rule ; I greatly prefer my grand- 
father's suggestions to Uncle Frederick's. But Job 
would have lost patience, if, whenever he tried to 
think out the answer to Twice two, his whole family 
had bawled out. Four ! Of course it's the right 
answer, but that is a singularly uncomfortable and 
inconclusive method of arriving at it. And suppose 
Job had had a secret suggestion that it was five ? 
I have my own opinion about Alick ; I have my own 
opinion about Mr. and Mrs. Bryant ; I have my 
own opinion about Nannie. They may be faulty 
opinions, but I do honestly believe they have 
deeper foundations than those of my grandfather, 
who never heard of one of the persons named 
till last week, and who has no motives of affec- 
tion or- self-interest to make him careful in his 
judgments.' 

Lady Katharine had no idea how to set about 
ejecting her father ; she only became exquisitely 
uncomfortable whenever he addressed his im- 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 77 

patient grandson. Vincent bore it for a day or 
two longer; then proceeded to act upon one of 
his opinions at once. 

' I am sorry to hear, grandfather, that you were 
troubled with asthma last night. Do you think 
it possible that the air of Everwell at this time of 
year is perhaps a little asthmatic ? ' 

The old man stared. But he took his lesson to 
heart beautifully, and even defended the boy 
afterwards when Lady Katharine apologised and 
lamented. ' I tell you what it is,' said Lord Henslow 
(they were in his house by this time, for the 
old man had not only relieved his grandson of 
his own presence, but for a few days of Lady 
Katharine's also), 'Vincent has a good spice of 
our character. If I were you, I wouldn't sugar 
his tea for him as you did his father's ; I'd hand 
him the tongs. And you'd better turn out when 
he marries, Katharine.' She sighed. 

' I am not allowed to ask your advice on the thing 
I am really anxious about — the thing which has 
really changed him,' said the poor lady, despairingly. 

' What, have you been reading the Uggle 
Grinby paper ? Depend upon it, Vincent will 
manage that affair for himself,' responded the old 
man, impatiently. ' Let him alone, my dear. 
Upon my word, I like him better than I did. 
This business has brought out his qualities. He 



78 MR. Bryant's mistake 

has temper, self-possession, pluck. What more do 
you expect in a lad of his age ? ' 

Meanwhile, to the great relief of every one, 
Nannie had been unanimously decided to be herself ; 
daughter of the deceased Benjamin Eandle, and not 
the unnecessary Mary Smith, whatever had really 
been the parentage of that long-forgotten and fever- 
slain infant. 

' It was a mare's nest. Take my advice, Nan, 
and never think of it again,' said John, very kindly ; 
and the poor child was grateful. 

' It's nice to have brothers and sisters, John,' she 
whispered ; ' if I had ever heard any one say I was 
like mother — your mother, John — I'd be happy.' 

' Well, the parson says so,' said John, reserving 
his own opinions. He felt very keenly that the 
name of Eandle had been disgraced in more ways 
than one, and now announced his intention of carry- 
ing out an old wish, to sell his household gods and 
join his wife's brother in Australia. Patty and 
Caroline were quite ready to emigrate, for Patty was 
a woman of energy and Caroline on the look-out for 
a husband. 

'Nan also,' said John, 'she'll find a husband 
quicker than you. Carry, my girl.' 

But Nannie said little beyond coaxing for a 
promise that her dear troubled Sally, who was sick 
of life at Ever well, should join the party. Maria 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 79 

consented, as she wanted a nurse for her little boy ; 
and the great girl, who had the vaguest idea where 
Sydney was, became uproariously jubilant. 



CHAPTER XI 

VixcEXT had twice been toX to visit Alick. The 

first time, ha^dncr leave to see him in his cell, he was 
alone with the prisoner for twenty minutes, most of 
which time passed in silence. Alick had pushed 
his stool over to the narrow casement, and sat with 
his chin on his arms, lookmgj awav at the north- 
eastern sky in the direction of Everwell. In this 
posture he would stay for hours without moving. 
There were a few books and tracts on the little 
table near him, but they had not been opened. 

' Well, Alick ? ' said Vincent's pleasant voice. 

The man looked round for a minute, and then 
back at the sky again, without a word. His 
face had the same suffering expression as when 
Xannie and her lover had kept watch over him in 
the gathering darkness after the tragedy. A^incent 
waited. 

* You look better, Alick. I hear you have learnt 
the way to sleep again.' The prophet broke silence 
rather suddenly — 



8o MR. BR YANrS MISTAKE 

' Ay. There's times when I think you are right 
about me, for no one but a madman could sleep with 
a burden of thought like mine. But I do. I sleep 
in the starlight with never a dream, and the street 
noises wake me of a morning like a christened child. 
I shall sleep to-night when the darkness conies, for 
all the waking and the burning in my soul now. 
It makes one wish,' said Alick presently, 'there was 
a long sleep under the grass, on and on, too low for 
the street noises to come, and never a dream, nor 
a wakening more.' 

' It may be so, Alick,' said Vincent. 

' No, sir, no ! ' replied the sufferer, sitting up 
straight and facing his visitor, ' there is no wake- 
less sleep for me, nor for you. I used to think 
I'd waken in the New Jerusalem with the pearly 
streets. Maybe you'll get there, sir. But there's 
a many who have been within sight of the 
walls, and have sung the songs of Zion with 
an honest and a true heart, and who have been 
castaways at the last,' said Alick, resuming his 
dejected posture. 

' The future is a mystery,' said Vincent, gently ; 
' then or now, Alick, we can only be men, and meet 
our fate as boldly and as calmly as we can. But 
what else besides the future do you think of when 
you sit here in this cold window ? ' A smile broke 
over the worn face. 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 8i 

' Sir, was it you asked 'em to give me a window 
looking towards Everwell ? ' 

'You like thinking of Everwell and your old 
friends there ? ' 

' Ay. I used to suppose,' reflected the ex-preacher, 
' as Paradise, the garden Adam and Eve was in, w^as 
one particular place. But it was a state, not a 
place ; and one man has it in one country and one 
in another. Maybe every man gets it once. It 
was at Everwell for me.' 

* Paradise ? ' 

' Ay. I was only there an hour. I cannot think 
there's a many who's there for so short a while ! 
The cherubim flew swift when he came to turn me 
out ! I'm thinking he thrust at me with the fiery 
sword, which turns every way, or I should not have 
started on my exile so sore hurt and wounded.' 

Vincent chose to wait till Alick spoke next, and 
there was a long pause, in which the woe-struck 
eyes gazed unfalteringly at the morning sky over 
Everwell. 

' Go away,' said Alick, curtly, looking round for 
a moment. The ^isitor rose at once. He held out 
his hand, but Ahck pushed it away angrily. 

' There is blood on my hand,' he said ; ' the 
blood of your kin. Go.' 

' Yes, he was my kin. You and I, Alick, are 
friends.' 

VOL. Ill 45 



82 MR. BR YANT S MISTAKE 

' No, sir ; you and me never was the same sort of 
man. It was a dream as we could be friends. 1 
have dreamt many dreams, and I have seen 'em all 
roll away like the wreaths of a thunder-cloud. 1 
care more than you for the ways of life, and of the 
heavenly city, and the blessed ones in it ; but it's 
like you who'll get there, and not me ; and I have 
sinned sins you would never have sunk to, not for 
all the devils in hell. You and me are different 
men, sir. I do not want you, staring at me in my 
misery. You don't say nothing to comfort me.' 
Vincent felt indeed that his utterances were miser- 
ably inadequate. Expression was not easy to him, 
as to this wretched Alick. 

' At least, your friends have not forgotten you,' 
he said ; ' we are doing all we can. Those who knew 
you and — loved you best, Alick, do it still.' 

' There never was but one as knew me,' mur- 
mured Alick. But he seemed touched, and his look 
came slowly away from the sunny clouds till it 
rested on his visitor's compassionate face. 

'Do you think I am mad now, sir?' asked 
Alick, quietly. 

'No, I don't. I think you have recovered.' 
There was a pause, the man's features working 
under the influence of some wild emotion. Suddenly 
he flung himself on his knees at Vincent's feet, and 
seizing his hand, clutched it violtjutly. 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 83 

'Ah, God 1' he groaned, ' perhaps I am mad now, 
and you are not real, and the prison-house is not 
real, and none of the things I think have happened, 
have happened, and the man is alive yet ; and 
Nannie is my lassie ; and I am not a castaway/ 

' Alick ! My poor friend ! ' said Vincent, ' my 
poor friend ! ' 

After this Mr. Bryant also thought it well to visit 
Alick, and it was half hoped by those who wanted 
to prove his irresponsibility, that the sight of his 
enemy would rouse him to some show of unreason. 
But beyond a momentary purple flush, the sufferer 
betrayed no agitation. Mr. Bryant felt embarrassed, 
but apprehension and discomfort were no novelties 
to him in this man's presence. He tried to speak 
kindly of Alick's kindred, and of what was doing in 
his workshop ; but he got no answer, and was not 
sure if he had been heard. Then of Nannie. Alick 
looked round for a moment. 

' Stop that,' he said ; and Mr. Bryant dropped the 
subject. 

' You are not the only person in trouble, my 
poor fellow,' said the clergyman. ' I could wish, for 
my beloved wife's sake, you had not revealed the 
subject of that conversation you overheard. It has 
brought a terrible retribution for sins long repented.' 
His tone was dry and hard, masking his torture. 

' Man, have you repented ?' asked Alick, sternly ; 



84 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

' I heard your talk with yon ill-lived traitor. Your 
own mouth condemned you.' 

'My poor fellow/ said the clergyman, 'your 
memory deceives you. I hear you impute to me 
expressions which I never used ; which I could not 
have used, because they are incompatible with facts. 
You were beside yourself that day.' He was merely 
warning Alick of the course he meant to take, and 
had no thought of trying either to persuade the 
man or to purchase his connivance. He knew well 
enough there had been no bathing in Lethe for poor 
Alick. And then, the latter keeping silence, he 
went on to speak sacerdotally of the man's awful 
deed, its fearful consequences to the victim and to 
himself, of the religion he had professed, and of 
God's mercy, upon which he should rely. Alick 
heard him out without interruption or movement. 
Then he spoke. 

' I am in my senses to-day,' said the prophet, rising 
to his feet, ' and I tell thee I am a castaway, a vessel 
of God's wrath, who have murdered men, soul and 
body together, and who would have murdered thee. 
But I am holier than thou. Get thou out of my sight.' 

When Mr. Bryant returned home, his wife and 
even Georgina exclaimed at his pale looks. He 
called Emma to him and threw himself on the sofa, 
motioning her to a chair by his side. Presently 
something like a groan burst from his lips. 



AN EXTINCT VOLCANO 85 

' Emma,' he said, ' if it is any consolation to you, 
I tell you I would give the world we were out of 
this business. I tell you, Emma, I would give the 
world I had the courage to walk up to Sir Vincent 
Leicester, or to any one, and say, " I have cheated 
you all, right and left. I have been a liar, and a 
swindler, and a traitor, to you, and to myself, and 
to my wife. But I will be so no longer." ' Yet he 
looked round and listened nervously, with a dread 
that some one besides Emma might have heard. 

* Dear Ned ! but you have harmed no one ! ' 
cried Mrs. Bryant. 

' I have harmed you, Emma. And the sting is 
that it has all been so paltry ; for such little 
objects, such little sins. They were little at first ; 
but they grow — they accumulate. And the sum 
total is appalling.' 



PAET X 
GIANT DESPAIR 



CHAPTEE I 

The hours moved slowly on the day of Alick's trial. 
There was a large concourse, for the case had pro- 
voked attention, and the fame of the fallen prophet 
had spread through the county. People strained 
their necks to look at him, and marvelled at his 
inoffensive air and suffering eyes. There was no 
sign of insanity about him now, and the general 
feeling was that the plea would not be established. 
The trial was not really long, and the side issues 
so painful to the prisoner and the witnesses were 
not, after all, dwelt upon much. Mr. Bryant had 
a few distressing questions to answer, but they did 
not throw much light on Alick's case, and only 
provoked sympathy with the popular clergyman. 
For the rest, he did his best for the accused, 
making light of Alick's hostility to himself. 

Mrs. Leach was fanning herself with her pocket- 
handkerchief, and once she exclaimed audibly, 'Don't 
he keep his promise beautiful ! * Now and then she 
tried to make suggestions to the witness, having 



90 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

from the opening of the proceedings established 
her character as the always welcomed ' funny per- 
son.' She was specially indignant at a suggestion of 
Alick's intoxication. In a mood of profound contri- 
tion herself, she cried out, ' Tell 'em, Mr. Bryant, 
it never was from him I inherited my sad ways.' 
And though she was hushed up and threatened 
a dozen times already, it was less severely than if 
she had omitted the word ' inherited,' which seemed 
to every one killingly droll. Vincent, and perhaps 
nobody else, caught her ejaculation about Mr. 
Bryant's promise. 

But Mr. Bryant's examination did not come off 
till Alick was able to listen without exhibiting, per- 
haps without experiencing, great emotion. It had 
been quite otherwise when the tale of his career as 
prophet and teacher had been sketched by the counsel 
for the prosecution. That was almost more than he 
could endure. It was exactly what he had dreaded ; 
by reason of his sin, God's work was evil spoken of 
and had come to nought. Those watching him saw 
his white face grow whiter, his eyes and lips 
agonised, a strong shivering establish itself through 
his frame. But the only time his self-control failed 
him through the whole strain of the day was at 
the assertion that of his converts, no one had re- 
mained true to his profession. ' Is there no one ? ' 
he cried aloud, in his sonorous and startling voice ; 



GIANT DESPAIR 91 

'not oneV and was silenced instantly; but it was 
less easy to silence Mrs. Leach, who started up 
from her place, with her arms extended, and her 
face beaming — 

' I, my blessed boy, I. Your mother is converted. 
She shall show before the day is over that she has 
crept out of her sins, as a caterpillar out of a 
chrysalis.' 

And she sat fanning herself, and smiling, and try- 
ing to think what sensational thing she could do, 
to show the whole world that she was repentant, and 
that her poor boy, for all his poor head, had been 
a true, Israelitish, inspired, and efficacious prophet. 

Nannie, of course, when her turn came, made an 
exceedingly favourable impression. Beauty does that 
easily, and Nannie was more than beautiful. Terrible 
though it was to her to appear in any sense against 
Alick, she was nerved to magnanimity by feeling 
that with her, if with any one, it lay to show that 
Alick at the time of his terrible deed was out of 
himself. The jury were unanimous in the opinion 
that they had never seen so fair a creature. Her 
first answer, clear and firm, made a sensation. ' My 
name is Nannie Eandle ; I am the defendant's 
cousin ; and / am promised to he his wife.' 

Sir Vincent Leicester raised his eyes for a moment 
and looked at the pale, steadfast face of the young girl. 
And Lord Henslow, the only person who remembered 



92 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

to observe the young man whose name had been dis- 
agreeably coupled with N'annie's, saw the look, but 
could detect no change of expression on his grandson's 
face. He took a pinch of snuff, and decided that, 
granted a flirtation between Vincent and that lovely 
young woman, this absolute imperturbability betok- 
ened the still waters which run deep. John Eandle 
had started at his sister's assertion, and muttered 
frowningly to himself ; but Mrs. Leach stood up and 
cried aloud, in jubilant tones, 'Amen, Amen. Praise 
ye the Lord I ' waving her handkerchief, and then 
wiping her eyes with it, and subsiding into her seat 
again, murmuring movingly, 'My precious ! my sweet 
daughter-in-law I my grateful and noble and loving 
beauty ! ' 

And Alick had thrown himself back in his place 
with his eyes closed : I doubt if he listened to an- 
other sentence from his Nannie or from any one. 

Nannie told her story quite simply and touch- 
ingly. She had been walking with her lover. He was 
very strange, and she saw that what she had been 
fearing was the case ; his mind had given way. 
And she described the unhappy Alick's wild words, 
her own terror, the dread that he was meditating 
something against Sir Vincent, the terrible scene 
which she had witnessed. And then she told of the 
great woe which Alick had endured in the failure 
of his holy work ; getting througli it all very well. 



GIANT DESPAIR 93 

But in cross-examination poor Nannie found many 
subjects brought forward which she had not at all 
expected, and which seemed to exhibit her as a 
person undeserving of any trust, who had roused 
in her sweetheart feelings of perfectly reasonable 
fury. 

Had she known Alick long ? Had she kept 
company with him long ? She had had other 
lovers ? Only one other ? She had been a long 
time making up her mind between her two lovers ? 
Was Alick jealous ? Who was her other lover ? 
Nannie looked round helplessly and was silent. 
Was it Sir Vincent Leicester ? ' Come, answer, if 
you please, Yes or No.' Nannie appealed against 
the question, and it was dropped. She was blush- 
ing scarlet, however, and every one guessed the 
answer. John Kandle stamped his foot with all 
his old feeling of displeasure and disgrace ; and 
Nannie gained little by the dropping of that question, 
for the matter was gone into farther. As a matter 
of fact, however, she sustained the ordeal well, and 
no one carried away the impression that she was 
even an ill-behaved coquette who had ruined her 
lover's temper. Her account of Alick's holiness, 
his delusions, his terrible grief and reckless despair, 
impressed every one with a sense of pity, and of 
belief in her truth and her affection for her unhappy 
lover. The counsel for the prosecution himself 



94 MR. BR YANTS MISTAKE 

raved about the brave, gentle girl for a month to 
come. 

And then Sir Vincent Leicester was called ; 
and if he was not quite such an interesting 
witness as Nannie, still people craned their necks 
to see him, because he was young and popular, 
was nearly related to the dead man, and, it seemed 
now, the hero of a love-story. His evidence was, 
of course, short and very much to the point, and 
unembarrassed by hesitation or mixed motives, or 
any sort of sentimentality. He described as much 
as he knew of the tragedy ; he had for some time 
believed the defendant out of his mind, because 
of so and so, and so and so, and so and so. He 
had had him examined by Dr. Simpson. He had 
seen Alick in a brain fever more than a year ago. 
He admitted that Alick and he had, at times, been 
on somewhat strained terms. Was not the defend- 
ant jealous of him ? Yes ; it was partly jealousy 
which had unhinged his mind. The witness was 
jealous himself, perhaps ? Eeasonably so. His 
acquaintance with last witness ? He knew Miss 
Nannie Eandle ; he had had the honour of seeking 
her as his wife, before she had engaged herself to 
the defendant. 

At this piece of information Lord Henslow became 
purple with horror, and took no further interest 
in the proceedings. 



GIANT DESPAIR 95 



CHAPTEE II 

Mr. Bryant had left his two ladies at home, and no 
other arrangement had been even suggested. Him- 
self, he had spent the night at X . But in the 

morning Georgina came down to breakfast in a dress 
she had never worn before, and announced her in- 
tention of going to the town and being present at 
the 'very interesting trial.' 'You will have to 
come with me, Mrs. Bryant,' she said ; ' papa would 
not be pleased for me to go alone.' She was putting 
on her bonnet as she spoke, and over it a very thick 
gauze veil. Evidently she wished to disguise herself. 

' My dear Georgie,' said the stepmother, much 
agitated, ' I couldn't think of going to such a place, 
and no more must you. Your pa would be most 
awfully vexed. I am quite positive, my dear.' 

' I will take the responsibility,' said Georgina ; 
and, resolved to prove Mrs. Bryant an openly ' im- 
possible person,' she carried her point. 

In the train they encountered Patty and Caroline; 
Mrs. Bryant was still crying, and Georgina began to 
think that after all she could effect her purpose with- 
out dragging the woman into the court. It seemed that 
Caroline was dying to behold the proceedings, so Miss 
Bryant put her pride in her pocket and took the 



96 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

farmer's daughter with her for a companion. The 
moment was a proud one for Caroline, who had long 
copied Miss Bryant's dresses and attitudes, and was 
ambitious to be seen in her company. 

Emma went with Patty to the inn close to the 
court, where John had taken a room for the day 
and where his wife received them. Mrs. John gave 
' that woman ' a very cold shoulder indeed, and 
reproved Patty for bringing her. Emma shivered, 
and sat alone in the corner of the dusty, empty, 
little room, hearing without heeding what seemed 
the heartless talk of the two respectable, well-to-do 
young women. How angry Edward would be, she 
thought, at her having let Georgie come ! The girl 
seemed to have a genius for embroiling her with 
her husband. And Emma knew she was entirely 

out of place herself this morning at X . Had 

she been a woman of energy she would have fled 
home again by the earliest train. Oh, how dreadfully 
angry Ned would be ! 

The hours moved along very slowly, till at last 
John appeared, leading the broken and agitated 
Nannie. ' Get the girl something to take,' he said, 
' and look after her.' John had grown very fond of 
his youngest sister. But he went away again, 
and the women, of course, wanted to know all 
that had taken place. Nannie was too much 
upset to talk. 



GIANT DESPAIR 97 

' No, no, it isn't over ; only they have done 
with me. Let me alone, Patty, do. I will sit here 
with my aunt,' said the girl, fleeing to Mrs. 
Bryant, who, at least, was silent. Xannie sank 
on the floor by her side, her head on Emma's lap. 
And the poor mother took comfort ; for the first time 
the child wanted her. Nannie was not comforted ; 
but the rest and the relaxation of the great 
strain was a boon. Somebody was caring for her, 
just for a few minutes ; she had no need, for an 
interval, to exert herself in any one's behalf. 
For an hour, at least, Alick's fate was beyond her 
control ; and she was not responsible for Mrs. 
Leach ; and Sarah and Lizzie were not clinging 
to her and saying, * Oh, Nannie, Nannie, what 
will be the end of it ? Whatever are we to do ? ' 
But more than an hour passed, and the room 
grew dark, and silent but for the loud ticking 
of the clock, while the four women waited and 
trembled. 

' We shall have a job with her if there is bad 
news,' thought Maria, noting Nannie's white face, 
which seemed shrunken and faded with care, the 
sweet eyes lost in dark hollows. 

' Did you mind giving evidence, Nan ? ' asked 
Mrs. John, thinking anything were better than 
letting the child go on thinking in this feverish 
way. 

VOL. Ill 46 



98 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

' Mind ? Mind speaking out before all those 
people and about such dreadful things ? And 
with liim listening ? How can you ask, Maria ? ' 

'Now, Nannie, don't be cross,' said Patty, cross 
herself with nervousness ; ' if you hadn't been a 
naughty, disobedient girl, you'd never have got 
mixed up in such doings.' 

Then Emma herself had a pin to stick in the 
wounded spirit. ' Darling,' she whispered, ' was 
there anything said about — about you and me ? ' 

' Oh, I don't know,' said JSTannie, wearily ; then 
rousing herself, ' no, nothing about you and me ; 
but there was a little said about you and that 
gentleman. It wasn't said to me. It had nothing 
to do with me. Do you mind so very much, 
aunt ? / had to bear it too. They said every one 
knew / had gone wrong. It isn't true ; but I 
suppose all the world will believe it. It isn't so 
bad as the things they are believing of Alick.' 
And she hid her face and was silent again, while 
Mrs. Bryant stroked her hand timidly and caress- 
ingly. 

And at last steps were heard coming down the 
silent street, and some one entered the inn. There 
were voices and a little commotion ; and the four 
wearied women knew that tidings had come. Mrs. 
Bryant effaced herself in the corner^ and Maria and 
Patty rose nervously, holding each other's fingers. 



GIANT DESPAIR 99 

Xannie sprang to her feet and stood with her 
back against the window, pressing her hands against 
her heart while her eyes gleamed with terror, and 
she had difficulty in repressing a scream. 

Sir Vincent Leicester entered. He walked 
straight to Nannie, not seeing the others. 

' What is it ? Oh, what is it ? ' she cried, in a 
voice of agony, her frame shuddering and retreating 
before him, while her breath came in quick, hard 
pants. 'Tell me — quick — quick.' 

'It is not the worst, Nannie,' said Vincent, 
slowly. It required a great effort for him to remain 
calm and cold, with his Nannie gazing at him in 
this weakness of agony — agony, too, for another 
than himself. 

' Tell me,' she said, more collectedly, stretching 
out shaking hands. Vincent held them between 
his, for indeed she seemed too nerveless to stand 
unsupported. 

' Nannie,' — he spoke slowly and distinctly ; 
' Acquitted — on the ground of insanity : to he detained 
during Her Majesty's pleasure! 

She withdrew her hands then, and covering her 
face, burst into soft weeping. And the other women 
wept too, none of them daring to speak, nor to 
interfere with these two, whose relation to each 
other was a mystery. 

Vincent stood before her with compressed lips 



lOo MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

and hungry eyes, till she was somewhat calmer. 
Then he turned slowly to go away. She had, it 
seemed, no words for him. Nannie uncovered her 
face and watched him as he retired. He opened 
the door; then paused and looked back. Nannie 
crossed the room totteringly and followed him. 
She took his hand, looking up at him — 

'Will you meet me— to-morrow evening at 
sundown on the shore V she said. 

' I will, Nannie.' They were silent for a moment, 
looking at each other, their hands clasped. 

' To say Good-bye,' she added, soundlessly, though 
he heard her. Another pause ; and a slow, painful 
flush rose upon Vincent's features and then died 
slowly away, leaving him pale almost as was she. 
He gently raised her dear hand to his lips and left 
her. They heard him stumble as he descended the 
stair. 



CHAPTEE III 

Mrs. Leach's appearance in the witness-box had been 
the signal for universal attention. It was a great 
occasion for her, and her very genuine anxiety to 
rescue her poor boy was only equalled by her 
anxiety to distinguish herself. She wore her dis- 
carded widow's weeds, and having brought her 



GIANT DESPAIR ioi 

youngest child with her, was vexed that the posthu- 
mous darling was not allowed to be in her arms 
while she gave her evidence. She was at all times 
a buxom, handsome woman ; and excitement, which 
was almost delight, was becoming to her, in spite 
of her crape and the melancholy occasion. I am 
afraid her family blushed. IN'annie alone appre- 
ciated her humorous qualities, and even Xannie 
was distressed by them to-day. 

Nannie was away and Alick was tongue- 
tied ; there was no one in the whole assembly 
able to control Mrs. Leach. To keep her to the 
point was impossible, and she was given, or rather 
took, license to expatiate and to talk such as was 
never permitted to witness before. Her description 
was wanted of her poor boy's poor head ; but it 
was not to be had without parenthesis about his 
sweetheart, the state of souls at Everwell, and her 
own two husbands, both named Jim. 

Now Mrs. Leach, to use her own expression, had 
been ' fit to be tied' when she had heard the assertion, 
so calmly made and apparently so undisputed, that 
her son was a religious impostor, and that not one of 
his converts had been genuine. Why yes, she was 
genuine. Slie had been converted ; she had suffered 
pains of remorse ; she had signed the pledge and 
wished to give up lying. She racked her brains to 
think how she could demonstrate all this to the public. 



102 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

She felt herself the most important of all the wit- 
nesses, being there to testify not so much to the 
badness of her son's head, as to the Divinity 
which had spoken through his lips, and turned 
men's souls from darkness to light. Could she 
establish his inspiration, of course the charge 
against him would fall to pieces. No one could 
be absurd enough to suppose that one taught of 
God could have committed a murder. 

The train of Mrs. Leach's thoughts was not 
intelligible to her hearers. No one understood 
why she took this opportunity of confessing her 
sins, and avowing her wish to forsake them. No 
one distinguished her as the witness to Alick's 
spiritual supremacy — the one genuinely reformed 
penitent. But there was no stopping her. Whatever 
the question, she told how she had tippled and had 
nearly driven her blessed boy wild by that ; and 
how she had prayed all night ; and how she had been 
a poor deceitful body, fond of inventing and juggling 
and bamboozling every one. And finally she flourished 
her handkerchief before her eyes and screamed out 
something in a voice so loud and stammering with 
excitement, that nobody could exactly understand 
what she was saying, except that it was wholly 
irrelevant and somewhat unseemly, to be waved 
aside and hushed up as quickly as possible. ' I 
wanted to please Mr. Bryant, but I'm a converted 



GIANT DESPAIR 103 

woman now, and done with lies for him or myself, 
all through mv blessed boy's praying for my poor 
souL I buried her, I did, for Xannie, for Mr. 
Bryant ; and she's Mary Smith ! ' 

Mrs. Leach had no idea that agitation had made 
her unintelligible. She looked round triumphantly, 
expecting to have made a gi'eat sensation, and to 
have altered the whole complexion of the afiair. 
But she only saw a few persons near her in fits 
of laughter ; and she was got out of the witness- 
box as quickly as possible, and the matter of 
Xannie's parentage was never once even alluded to. 
Her strange information never got into the news- 
papers, and could not have been taken in by the 
reporters. Xo one appeared to place any more 
credit in her veracity, nor any less in the clergy- 
man's, nor was Xannie's name ever disputed, nor 
Mr. Bryant troubled for the smallest explanation. 
That gentleman smiled composedly when Lord 
Henslow asked him how he had been unlucky 
enough to offend that madwoman. 

The madwoman; exactly; ]VL's. Leach had after 
all done a gi'eat deal for her poor son. Every one 
perceived that unsoundness of intellect ran in the 
family. 

And so the whole thing was over, and people 
went away smiKng, for the verdict was approved. 
Alick Eandle was soon forgotten by the world, and 



104 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

"Frederick Kane was spoken of in his family no 
more. The tragic note had been sounded but not 
sustained, for the victims of tragedy have impos- 
ing funerals and marble monuments under lofty 
domes; but here was a case for mere whited sepulchres 
and the conspicuousness of silence. Let Frederick 
Kane be buried, and Mrs. Bryant, as she could 
not be thought of without him, disappear. And 
hide Alick in a madhouse perhaps for the rest of 
his days ; no one could possibly want him again, 
and if he were a torment to himself — well, fate 
had still dealt kindly with him, for he had escaped 
disgrace, and charity was ready to cover the multi- 
tude of his sins. The world had had a nine days' 
wonder ; it had not had a tragedy. Yet even a 
nine days' wonder is always apt to prove a tragedy 
for some two or three. 



CHAPTEE IV 

Mr. Bryant had caught Ann Leach's words well 
enough, for he had their clue. And he was as 
uncomfortable in his heart as ever deceiver could 
be. If others heard ? understood ? if — one or two 
— they believed ? And why was Vincent looking 
at him in that insolent way ? * Positively insolent,' 



GIANT DESPAIR 105 

said Mr. Bryant to himself, maligning his young 
friend who was merely wondering. 

But Lord Henslow shook hands with the clergy- 
man, and every one regarded him with respect, 
silent sympathy, and admiration. ' Thank Heaven 
it is all but ended now,' he murmured, as he left 
the court, his terrors subsiding. And then he felt 
a hand laid upon his arm, and beheld, Georgina. 
It is needless to say that Mr. Bryant was speech- 
less with indignation. Lord Henslow and several 
other acquaintances saw her, and observed that she 
was struggling with tears. 

' Papa,' said the daughter after a while, when 
his first anger at her intrusion had subsided, ' it is 
absolutely necessary that you take me to some place 
where I can speak to you alone.' 

And Georgina explained that Mrs. Bryant was 
in the town. 

' Emma ! For God's sake, you don't mean to say 
ske was present ? ' 

' No, I am thankful to say, / prevented that. I 
suspected some allusions to her, and I insisted on 
her having the decency to stay away.' 

' Georgina, your coming has displeased me more 
than I can express,' said her father. 

' I am sorry.' Then she said emphatically, 
looking him full in the face, ' It is fortunate I am 
not so indignant with you as I have a right to be.' 



io6 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

Mr. Bryant trembled, for he feared his daughter, 
that too clever partner in his game. 

' I warned you, Georgie, of a mystery, which I 
intended to explain to you myself 

' Yes,' said the girl, ' and I suppose to garble the 
truth to me as it seems you have done to others ! ' 

' Georgina ! I, garble the truth ? What do you 
mean ? ' 

' I heard what Mrs. Leach said,' replied Georgina. 
He was silent for a moment. Then Ann had been 
less unintelligible than he had hoped ! 

' Is my daughter thinking of taking that woman's 
statement against mine ? ' 

* Oh ! Was it not true what she said ? ' 

' Certainly not. You are making yourself ridicu- 
lous by asking. Be quiet now, Georgina, and tell 
me where my wife is. We must return home at 
once.' 

* Papa ! Have you no compassion for me in this 
sudden ruin ? I cannot return with Mrs. Bryant.' 

'My dear, I have the greatest possible com- 
passion for you, but I cannot and will not make a 
scene in the middle of the street. Come now. The 
Ball Inn ? This place here ? ' 

' I never make scenes, papa. But I think you 
are insulting me, dragging me into this public- 
house, and forcing me into the company of that 
wicked woman.' 



GIANT DESPAIR I07 

' Hold your tongue, Georgina,' said Mr. Bryant. 
But he had heard her, and he feared his daughter still. 

Truly the inn, which had filled with people now, 
had very much the appearance of a public-house- 
At the bottom of the stair they encountered Sir 
Vincent, who was standing with one hand pressed 
to his brow^, and a countenance of sharp anxiety ; for 
Nannie had broken down, and he would not leave 
the house till he knew her restored. Mr. Bryant 
did not reflect that the young man's presence in the 
public-house was almost as remarkable as his own ; 
his one sensation was annoyance at being detected 
seeking his wife in this kind of low place, by the 
man who was suspicious of him already. However, 
he marched on up the unsavoury stair, dragging 
Georgina after him. 

Nannie was just recovering a little ; and, sur- 
rounded by all manner of officious people, she was 
turning to Mrs. Bryant for defence, when the clergy- 
man entered. 

* Emma, our train leaves immediately. You 
must come away at once.' He was too much ex- 
asperated to speak kindly, but he was really anxious 
to get her away instantaneously. Anything else 
would be capitulation to Georgina. 

The tension of the day made every one's nerves 
irritable. John Eandle, delimited to have something to 
do, jumped up and pushed Mr. Bryant from the room. 



io8 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

' Get out of this/ he said ; ' my sister has turned 
sick. I won't have her bothered by your d — d 
interference.' 

Always that detestable Nannie in Mr. Bryant's 
way when he tried to do his duty ! Mrs. Bryant 
and the Eandles waited for the late train, and father 
and daughter returned home alone. Neither of them 
spoke, 

Georgina went to her room, put on a pretty 
muslin, made her whole aspect as meek and as 
charming as she could, and then came down and 
waited on her father. Indeed, seeing he was un- 
happy, she gave him a tender kiss, which revived 
his affection. ' Poor, poor child ! ' he thought. ' No, 
I won't scold her. She was so unprepared, and is 
such an innocent victim ! ' Georgina brought him 
a dainty supper of all the things he liked best. Mr. 
Bryant had no appetite, but the attention pleased 
him. Her time had come ; the opportunity was 
golden, not to be missed. 

' Poor, dear papa ! . What a comfort that we 
have each other ! ' she sighed ; ' how I suffered 
during those few minutes I doubted you, papa ! ' 

' Georgie, I cannot conceive how, on the au- 
thority of that outrageous woman ' 

' Oh, papa, no. Not on her authority. It is your 
own conduct that has been so strange.' 

' What do you mean, Georgie ? ' 



GIANT DESPAIR 109 

' Papa, you will be frank with me, won't you ? 
You will let me for once be frank with you ? You 
must remember I have no one to look to but you. 
Xo one to whom I can reasonably go for advice, 
or for sympathy. Friends, yes ; but few here ; no 
brother, or sister, or near relative.' 

' Well, well, well ? ' 

' I am dependent on you, papa. I trust you. 
You will not fail me ? Oh, papa, be frank with me. 
Tell me all.' 

* What do you want to know ? ' 

* I want your bearing explained. How long have 
you known this ghastly secret of your wife's ? ' He 
was silent. * Surely, surely, papa, you have not let • 
me live here with that — with her, knowing the sort 
of woman she had been ? ' 

' Georgina, I will not endure a word against 
her.' 

' I will be careful, papa. But did you deceive 
me in that way ? ' 

Alas ! he had told the falsehoods already, and for 
consistency's sake had to repeat them. 

' Papa, how incomprehensible 1 Why, you have 
been just the same to her ! A woman who had 
deceived you, and in the cruellest way possible ? — 
and you treat her exactly as you did while you 
trusted her ! ' 

' It is not for you to censure her, Georgina.' 



no MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

' N'o. It is for you. If what you tell me is 
true/ said the daughter. 

' Very well. Consider I have done it. There is 
an end of the matter.' 

' I am afraid not, papa. Papa, is it true ? ' 

' Why do you ask ? ' Georgina rose and stood 
before her father. 

'Because no one will believe it, if you go on as 
hefore' she said, after a pause. 

Mr. Bryant looked at his daughter searchingly. 
He was proud of the girl ; affectionate too. But he 
was afraid of her. ' It would have been so easy to 
have shielded Mrs. Bryant, if you had wished,' said 
Georgina, relentlessly. ' I must be open with you, 
papa, and you must forgive me — our position is so 
serious. Papa, as things are now, no one will 
believe what you say. I shall not believe it myself. 
Eemember I heard Mrs. Leach, and so did others. 
No one is likely to forget. If you keep this un- 
happy wife of yours living with you ; if you expect 
me to associate with her ; if you pass her off on 
other people as a virtuous woman fit for the society 
of ladies ; I shall never believe you have spoken 
the truth ! I shall not believe that she deceived you.' 

' Think what you choose, Georgina.' 

' I shall consider, and so will every one, that you 
have been a deceiver yourself. And I shall not stay 
in your house, papa.' 



GIANT DESPA IR 1 1 1 

' Where will you go, Georgina ? ' 

' For to-night I shall go to Lady Katharine 
Leicester. / shall tell her all, and ask her assist- 
ance.' Mr. Bryant started to his feet. All colour 
had left his cheek and lips. 

' You shall not/ he said. ' You seem to forget 
that Sir Vincent ' 

' I have forgotten nothing, papa. Sir Vincent's 
mother is a most unsuitable person for me to go to, 
but I have no one else.' 

* Sit down, my dear ; Emma will be here in a 
few minutes. We must have this over before she 
comes.' 

' Papa, I am very sorry, but if she returns, I 
shall leave you.' 

' She is my wife.' 

' Oh, dearest papa, forgive me ! She is your wife. 
But unworthy, as you admit — as you must admit. I 
am your daughter. / have never been undutiful. 
Are you going to drive me away, w^hen I have not a 
soul belonging to me but yourself ? ' 

' I cannot drive my wife away.' 

' She has forfeited her rights ; surely.' 

' She has not.' 

' I am not unreasonable in asking to be con- 
sidered. I am too young to be thrown upon the 
world alone. I am not so young that I do not 
know what opinion will be formed by the world of 



112 MR, BRYANTS MISTAKE 

this unfortunate wife of yours ; and, papa, of you. 
I tell you candidly I do not love her enough to 
endure her tacked on to me in the character of a 
penitent. Come, papa, I have lived in the house 
with you. I know that whatever was the case 
once, you and Mrs. Bryant are no longer very fond 
of each other. And she has relations ; she has a 
daughter! Georgina sat down and waited ; Mr. 
Bryant also reseated himself, his head on his hand. 
He could not get rid of the feeling that Georgina 
knew more than she said. And her tone was 
hard and resolute, while conscience made him a 
coward. Ten minutes passed. ' Well, papa ? ' He 
rose. 

' I have no more to say, except that I forbid 
you to go to Lady Katharine.' 

' But I shall do it,' said Georgina, calmly. ' I 
cannot meet Mrs. Bryant again ; if you bring her 
back here, I will go straight to Lady Katharine.' 
It was her ultimatum. Mr. Bryant, remembering 
what he chose to call Vincent's ' insolent ' expres- 
sion, felt her resolution intolerable. 

He met his wife — the poor Emma whom he 
had wronged, whom he loved, to whom he desired 
to make restitution, who was a clog — at Tanswick 
station. 'Now, my love, do pray attend to me for a 
moment. Whatever were you about,' he said, taking 
her aside, ' letting Georgina go to X ? It has 



GIANT DESPAIR 113 

brought on a catastrophe. The shock of learning 
things in that manner has entirely upset the child. 
I have had a most painful scene with her. She is 
furious with us. She declares she will leave the 
house.' 

* Georgie and me never got on together/ said 
the injured woman, feebly. ' I can't think how 
ever we'll do with each other now.' 

' Oil and vinegar ! ' ejaculated Mr. Bryant. * I 
am afraid, Emma, judging by her behaviour to me, 
she wdll be excessively rude. I dread exposing 
you to her while she is in this passion. Is there 
any place we can send her ? Our neighbours are 
all so far off, and we are so little intimate with 
them. Who is there we could possibly take into 
our confidence ? ' 

' Would it do, Edward,' said Mrs. Bryant, ' if I 
stayed with Nannie for the night? She has been 
so upset. I cannot bear to leave her.' 

* Oh, Nannie, Nannie eternally ! Have you no 
thought for any one but Nannie ? ' cried Mr. Bryant, 
all the more irritated that the suggestion furnished 
him with a resource. 

' I don't like the idea of seeming to turn you 
out, Emma ; that's the fact,' he said presently, in 
a low voice. 

' Dear heart ! I shall be happy enough with 
Nannie,' said Mrs. Bryant, eagerly. Mr. Bryant 
VOL. Ill 47 



114 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

promptly offered the pony carriage. It seemed to 
him a sort of saving clause. N"o one could imagine 
he was slighting his wife when he put her cere- 
moniously himself into her carriage. 

' There, my love ! Take the child to the Farm and 
stay with her, or come on home, just as you think 
best.' And he helped Nannie in quite effusively. 
' I will come for you early to-morrow, Emma,' said 
Mr. Bryant, putting the reins into his wife's hand, 
' and we will talk matters over. Georgie will be 
better tempered and more reasonable by that time, 
I hope. You are sure the plan is agreeable to 
every one ? What do you say, Nannie ? ' 

' I will take care of Aunt Emma,' said the girl, 
looking at him steadily. He had overdone the un- 
usual civility to herself, and Nannie perceived that 
this sudden unlading upon her of his unworthy wife 
was his refuge from a difficulty. Her quick mind 
understood the position from what she supposed Mr. 
Bryant's point of view, and she was not unwilling 
to come to his assistance. 

But Mrs. Bryant had no overwhelming sense of 
her unfortunate position. She felt so innocent that 
she could not believe herself blamed, and she had 
not Nannie's talent for looking through other 
people's spectacles. Her husband had no sooner 
abandoned her than she remembered that her nieces 
were disagreeable, and that John was blunt and 



GIANT DESPAIR 115 

contemptuous and rough, as his father had been 
before him. ' I'd a great deal rather have brought 
you home with me, Nannie,' she murmured. 

' No,' said the girl, vigorously, ' Miss Bryant 
never would have allowed that. I wonder you 
don't see how it is, aunt. All this seems very 
dreadful to Miss Bryant ; it is very dreadful. You 
and me had much better keep out of her way for a 
day or so.' And Nannie looked at the uncompre- 
hending, helpless woman mth some indignation. 

' Nannie,' said Mrs. Bryant, ' you'll just let me 
sit in your room, won't you, love ? I have a sort 
of dread of the others — your sisters, as you call 
them.' 

* Oh,' said Nannie, ' but. Aunt Emma, I thought 
you knew ! I am not going home. I am staying 
with Aunt Ann. I shall have to take you to her 
house.' 

* Oh dear ! ' said Emma, anxiously. ' Mr. Bryant 
would never have let me stay if he had known I 
was to go there ! ' 

' Aunt Emma,' said Nannie, seriously, ' you can 
go home to the vicarage if you like, but I am quite 
sure Mr. Bryant didn't want it, just for to-night ; 
only he was too kind to say so.' 

' It's a queer thing,' whimpered the poor stupid 
thing again, 'if my own husband would rather I 
stayed away from him ! ' 



ii6 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

They were waiting all this time for the walkers, 
for Nannie had already resumed charge of the dis- 
tracted Mrs. Leach, and begged now to be allowed 
to take her in the carriage. Ann's entry was 
presently effected, and Nannie suggested that she 
had better herself be the driver, for Mrs. Bryant, 
not too skilful at any time, was blinded now by 
tears. ' Oh, I understand all about ponies, don't I, 
John ? ' said the girl, with a liveliness she was far 
from feeling. 

Mrs. Leach gave a new turn to the conversa- 
tion. ' Ain't you maybe feeling faint, my precious ? ' 
she said to Nannie ; ' Mrs. Maria, give me the 
smelling bottle before we go. She'll let the horses 
run, if she goes faint. But I can hold the smell 
to your face, my deary, if you feel it coming on. 
Whatever will Sally think, to see me riding in 
a carriage, and bringing Emma home with me ! 
Eh dear ! it has been a sad and a dignified day for 
us all.' 



CHAPTEE V 

But in the morning Mr. Bryant was no nearer the 
problem's solution than he had been the evening 
before. Georgina was patient and affectionate, and 
as charming as possible, but there was no sign of 



GIANT DESPAIR 117 

relenting about her. She referred to Lady Kath- 
arine once or twice in a pointed manner, which he 
understood well enough. 

However, he was resolved to dare the worst, and 
to fetch his wife home from the Farm ; nor was he 
without remorse for having let her go there. But 
he postponed the expedition half-hour after half- 
hour, dreading the crisis and feeling as if in a bad 
dream his will w^ere paralysed. And to-morrow 
was Sunday, and the helpful curate having failed, lie 
would himself be obliged to preach : and the events 
of yesterday and their train of causes would certainly 
require some allusion, forEverwell was a very small 
place, and Alick had been too notable to be passed 
over in silence, now that justice had exonerated him. 
This pointing of a moral upon the man who was holier 
than he, seemed to fill Mr. Bryant's mouth with gravel. 
He opened his books and tried to write something, 
resolving not to go for Emma till the afternoon, when 
he would have leisure to attend to her affectionately. 
Still the sermon did not progress. An interruption 
was welcome. It came in the person of young Sir 
Vincent, who was attended by his noble grandfather. 
Mr. Bryant received them most graciously. It was 
some consolation that distinguished people were still 
glad to shake hands with him. 

The clergyman looked ten years older than 
when he had come to Everwell. His hair had 



liS MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

turned white, his eyes were sunken, and he was 
thin. Within the last fortnight lines had ap- 
peared about his mouth and eyes that betrayed 
deep grief and carking anxiety. Vincent Leicester 
also looked older ; his lips were less apt to smile ; 
he had lost the mentally lazy, self-occupied air which 
belongs to ease and irresponsibility and the flattered 
importance of youth. This very morning he had had 
a passage of arms with his grandfather, who wished 
of course to give an opinion about Nannie. Vincent 
listened with a respectful patience, and replied with 
a quiet gravity, which convinced the old man that 
the affair was serious, and that nothing he could 
say or do would alter the lover's intentions. 

' Well,' had said Lord Henslow, at last, ' I beg 
you clearly to understand that if ever you make 
such a marriage as that, we decline your acquaint- 
ance for the future.' 

' I hope you will see grounds for reconsidering 
that hasty decision,' Vincent had replied; 'if not, I can 
only say I am sorry you should think it necessary.' 

' You are your own master,' said the old man ; 
' only remember the warning I have given you.' 
He was seriously disturbed about his grandson, but 
he rather liked him. ' He is deeper than Charles,' 
he reflected ; ' and what does Katharine mean by 
saying he is impatient ? ' 

' Oh yes ; ' aloud, ' I will go with you to Mr. 



GIANT DESPAIR 119 

Bryant. What are you going to say to him ? ' 
Vincent made no explanation ; and they went to- 
gether to the vicarage. 

Lord Henslow talked to Mr. Bryant for some time 
with much cordiality, and Vincent stood gloomily 
by the window, rubbing his dog with his foot, and 
listening. At last there came a pause, both Mr. 
Bryant and Lord Henslow feeling it was desired ; 
and the clergyman could no longer refuse to meet 
liis patron's eye. 

' You have some business with me, Sir Vincent ? ' 
His manner was a little stiff, and he was always im- 
posing. Vincent flushed up to the roots of his hair, 
for his errand was disagreeable. 

* No, only a suggestion : perhaps I may say a 
request.' 

' Name it. I am always happy to oblige you.' 
He spoke easily, but he did not like Sir Vincent's 
expression. Lord Henslow could not conceive what 
was coming. 

'Our relations are not likely in future to be 
satisfactory, Mr. Bryant,' said Vincent, with a 
gravity which took off the bluntness of his words. 
' I am a fixture here. My suggestion is that you 
should consider the advisability of leaving Everwell.' 
He made no sort of apology, but looked straight at 
the clergyman, and the wretched man was convinced 
that he was detected. 



I20 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

Lord Henslow, who had submitted to ejection him- 
self a week or two ago, was astonished and annoyed 
now beyond the power of expressing so much as an 
interjection. He turned sharply on his grandson ; but 
something in Vincent's air checked his remonstrance. 

' You have forestalled me, Sir Vincent,' said Mr. 
Bryant, calmly, ' and, allow me to say, not very 
gracefully.' 

But then the grocer's son tried a little bluster, 
and damaged himself irretrievably in the nobleman's 
opinion, who had at first been inclined to mediate. 

' Oh, my dear sir,' said the old Earl finally, ' I 
am quite sufficiently bothered by my grandson's 
amourettes to wish to hear any more of them. They 
are his own affair. Miss Bryant can have nothing 
more than a flirtation to accuse him of, I think ? 
If there had been any serious engagement, you 
would have remembered it before this morning ; is it 
not so ? No, no ; we won't drag your charming 
daughter into this question. I think not. I think 
not.' Mr. Bryant was vanquished. 

'You are a cool hand, Vincent,' said Lord 
Henslow, as they drove away. ' What did you take 
me there for ? ' 

' Because I wanted a witness. It is a pity I 
hadn't a witness in all my conversations with 
Georgina,' he said, hotly. 

'And may I ask further, what you believe this 
man to have done ? ' 



GIAAT DESPAIR 121 

'' As I did not tell him, is it not a little unfair 
to tell you ? ' 

' In confidence, boy, in confidence.' 

' Well, in confidence then, and merely as a matter 
of unproved personal opinion, I think he's a snob, a 
humbug, a coward, and a liar. I believe his wife is 
an inoffensive, weak woman, of whom he has taken 
the meanest advantage. I believe he has lied right 
and left, and has bought lies from other people. 
And what is more, he knows I think all that, and 
he didn't dare to deny it. No, he dropped the 
subject, pocketed the affront, and will simply make 
off. He daren't bring his story to the proof, for he 
knows it would fall to pieces. Do you know he 
has turned his wife out ? The brute. She is down 
in the village at the Leaches, crying, poor fool, and 
wondering who will make his chocolate, as Georgie 
lies in bed till eleven. Mrs. Bryant is a fool, and 
he has made use of her folly to save his own skin.' 

' Well, if you think all that, you are right to try 
and get rid of him. We must all do our best to 
keep the Church pure. But I expect you are mis- 
taken, and in any case you should have spared the 
scene. Scenes are youthful. I'd have let him 
resign and have smiled on him to the last.' 

' But I wanted him to be under no delusion as 
to my opinion ; besides, I don't believe in that letter 
of resignation lying already written in his desk !' 



122 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

cried Vincent, scornfully ; ' if it was coming, depend 
upon it, I should have had it a fortnight ago.' 

' Certainly you have a poor opinion of him. It 
is a pity you were so headstrong about bringing him 
here.' 

' It is,' said Vincent ; ' I will seek advice in 
choosing his successor.' 

' Your cousin Augustine.' 

' Perhaps so ; perhaps not. I will seek advice. 
1 perceive that I know very little of parsons.' 

'You are cutting your wisdom teeth, my boy. 
And now I suppose you will be informing me again 
that Everwell is asthmatic ?' 

' It is true I have an appointment for this 
evening which may prevent my paying you the 
attention I should wish,' said Vincent, smiling sadly. 

' Indeed ? If you had hinted at it yesterday, I 
could have stayed away ; but your invitation seemed 
hearty.' 

' Yes ; for I knew you would attack me about 
Nannie, and I wished it over as quickly as possible. 
My appointment this evening is with lierl he con- 
fessed, gravely. 

Lord Henslow turned round and stared in unfeigned 
astonishment, and a little involuntary admiration. 

Meanwhile Mr. Bryant had sat down again to his 
sermon. He was feeling very angry and sore, and 
the sermon was a refuge from thought ; his mind 



GIANT DESPAIR 123 

was in a state of white heat, and he turned it all 
on to the intellectual labour of the moment. 
Sentence after sentence of eloquent discourse fell 
from his pen without the smallest trouble. At the 
end of four pages he read it over. ' Very good ; 
couldn't be better ; absolutely satisfactory.' 

He was alarmed to find how well he had done 
it, without one atom of interest, while his mind 
was really fixed on Vincent Leicester's scandalous 
rudeness. Certainly Mr. Bryant's temptations to 
charlatanism were very great. He had had a 
hatred of deliberately lifeless sermons ; but he 
found out now that he could compose one perfectly 
well. The lifelessness would never be detected. 
He felt a movement of horror. Lifeless sermons 
were perhaps to be his work for tlie future. Life- 
less prayers would follow. In fact, he was reaching 
Alick's point of despair, and was beginning to believe 
himself God-forsaken. But Mr. Bryant was per- 
fectly sane ; it was not to be expected that he 
would care so much as Alick. He began to cast 
about as to how he could best get on without God ; 
if he were never again to be an earnest and sancti- 
fied minister of the Gospel, he felt attention necessary 
to make him an efficacious and admirable praying- 
machine. Just then Georgina put her dainty head 
in. ' What did they want, papa ? I saw Vincent 
looking very consequential.' 



124 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

. ' I am going to resign, Georgie/ he replied, 
evasively. 

'Vincent ordered you to resign, papa? Why?' 
asked the relentless Georgina. * Shall I answer the 
question for you V 

Mr. Bryant perfectly understood her meaning ; 
Vincent Leicester was just a specimen of the world ; 
the world at large would credit his story no more than 
did Vincent Leicester, if he persevered in his present 
ambiguous attitude. He took a sheet of paper and 
wrote a letter, which he dated some days back. 

'Dear Sir Vincent — The unhappy events of 
the last few weeks will have prepared you for 
the communication I now place in your hands,' etc. 
etc. etc. ; with platitudes of apology and regret. 
' My successor will, I trust, be one to continue with 
happier fortune than mine the work which has been 
to me so congenial and so hopeful. You will un- 
derstand me when I say I must leave Everwell as 
soon as will be convenient. Its associations are 
too painful for us all, and my beloved wife feels 
that among strangers she will most easily secure that 
retirement which is now our best hope and our 
only desire.' And then came an affectionate ending. 
The epistle, misdated and sealed, he enclosed in 
another. 

' Dear Sir — I send the lettei- which I mentioned 



GIANT DESPAIR 125 

to you this morning as lying directed to you in 
my desk. Had it been written subsequently to 
this day's conversation, it would have been dif- 
ferently worded. However, I will let it pass. — 
Your obedient servant, E. Bryant.' 

These despatches he sent up at once to the 
Heights, and in the course of the afternoon received 
the following reply : — 

*Deae Sir — Your resignation is in my hands, 
and in accepting it I desire to express my regret 
that it is inevitable. You will allow me to say 
that if I have wronged either you or Mrs. Bryant, 
in thought or word, it has been unintentionally, and 
with the very greatest pain to myself — Your 
obedient servant, V. Leicester.' 



CHAPTER VI 

Mr. Bryant felt less depressed after sending his 
letter, and wrote away diligently. The afternoon 
wore on and he had not yet gone to fetch his dis- 
astrous wife home : nor did he feel any more inclined 
to do it. And now there came more visitors. 

Distinguished visitors again ; old friends too, 
admiring and sympathetic ; — Mr. Myers, the London 
clergyman who had visited Mr. Bryant in the first 



126 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

days of his affliction, and with Mr. Myers his 
brother, the Bishop. As we know, the Bishop had 
long had his eye on Mr. Bryant, and had welcomed 
him to his diocese, though he had not, for some 
occult reason, seen fit himself to give him a living in it. 

Mr. Myers had explained to his brother many 
particulars about his old friend, and asserted that 
his career had been spoiled by that wretched wife. 

'When he married her,' said the good man, 
unconsciously exaggerating the part he had himself 
played, ' I warned him that she was not his equal. 
I distrusted her from the first. But no ; her beauty 
infatuated him. He would listen to nothing. We 
see the result.' 

' Quite so, quite so,' said the Bishop. It happened 
that his own wife was a singularly disagreeable and 
deceitful person, whom he had married in a moment 
of infatuation, and who had more than once almost 
succeeded in ruining his own career. Naturally his 
sympathy went out to the vicar of Everwell. 

These visitors were most cheering to Mr. Bryant. 
Finding the detrimental wife away from home, they 
accepted his invitation to remain for a few hours, 
and Georgina took them out to walk, and showed 
them (tearfully) the precipice, scene of tragedy ; the 
fishing village with its overhanging houses and red 
roofs, the beck, and the wooden bridge where the 
russet nets hung over the motionless water. 



GIANT DESPAIR 127 

' And we must leave it all ! ' said Georgina, 
transfixing his lordship with eloquent eyes ; ' my 
poor father is heart-broken. He was so much 
beloved — so successful here. Oh, is it not sad how 
suffering falls on innocent people \ ' 

'My dear young lady,' corrected Mr. Myers, 
'the sinner is the worst sufferer.' 

' Not in our case,' said Georgina, impulsively, and 
with a sob of deep feeling ; ' my poor noble father 
is suffering a thousand times more than — than the 
person who has ruined him ! ' 

Very delicately the Bishop tried to find out from 
Miss Bryant what was going to be done with that 
wretched woman. ' She is not at home at present ? ' 

' Oh no. She is with her own relations. Poor 
papa — it is miserable work for him. He would 
sacrifice everything for her ; but there is always the 
question, isn't there ? " Would it be right ? " And 
there are other claims, are there not ? especially on a 
clergyman. And I do think,' said the young lady, 
looking eloquently at the Bishop, ' papa feels very 
much that there is a point where forbearance be- 
comes weakness. He will always be very kind to 
her ; but I know he is terribly perplexed. She is 
away at present. I hardly think he will see his 
way to ' 

The brothers thought Georgina unutterably 
charming ; and Mr. Myers invited her to pay his 



128 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

daughters a long visit in the spring. He stayed in 
the drawing-room with Miss Bryant, and the Bishop 
sat in the study with her father. It was suitable 
that the perplexed and sorely tried minister should 
take counsel from his spiritual superior. Somehow 
throughout the conversation the Bishop seemed to 
take for granted that Mr. Bryant had no course 
open to him but a separation from his unworthy 
wife; and before his lordship left, the clergy- 
man was made aware that the fat living, which 
had long ago been nearly his, was not yet per- 
manently bestowed, and the locum tenens was anxious 
to get away to the south of England. 

' Which means, papa — ' said Georgina, playfully, 
when she heard this piece of information. 

And at last, when it was getting late, Mr. Bryant 
walked up to the Home Farm to seek his wife 
and bring her home. He had risen in his own 
estimation since the morning. The sermon was 
excellent ; every one except Vincent was civil 
to him. He had talked matters over with the 
Bishop, and it is a fact that the Bishop's credulity 
and sympathy and kindliness had made him feel 
comfortable, and as if he had spoken the truth. 
Just such a feeling of satisfaction had Jacob 
at the moment when he had stolen the blessing 
from Esau ; he had acted basely, and remorse was 
certain to come ; but for the moment, well — he 



GIANT DESPAIR 129 

had got the blessing. And, as Georgie said, the 
Bishop had evidently a plan for him ; he had not 
come all that way merely to offer sympathy. 
' After all,' ^Ir. Bryant reflected, ' I am thrown 
away upon these barbarous fishing folk. I am 
really better suited to preach to persons of education 
and of culture.' And then he recalled his thoughts 
in the usual way. ' No. I have forgotten. Emma 
is unsuited to tlie society we should encounter at 

X . No ; I must refuse and seek some humbler 

sphere.' He hurried along, remembering angrily 
various things. ' I can't help it ! ' he said between 
his teeth, * Georgie shall do what she pleases, but 
my one duty is to shelter — to make restitution to 
Emma. Even if Georgie finds out ' 

By this time he had reached the Farm, and w^as 
being informed that both Nannie and her aunt, 
Mrs. Bryant, were entertained by Ann Leach and 
her noisy progeny. 

He turned and walked off to the village, with 
his heart swelling. It had been displeasing to the 
clergyman to seek his wife at the Farm — a farm 
is a vulgar sort of place, and he disliked John 
Eandle ; nevertheless John and his belongings were 
respectability personified, and ]\Ir. Bryant could 
survive some contact with them. But Ann Leach ! 
A woman who drank, and whose talk about her 
two husbands reminded him of the Wif of Bathe ; 
VOL. Ill 48 



I30 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

whose cliilclren were scarcely superior to the bare- 
legged fishing imps ; whose son was a sort of dis- 
senter and had been charged with crime ! To a 
fastidious gentleman like Mr. Bryant the bare idea 
of taking a wife out of such a house as Ann's 
caught his breath. Surely Emma must know that for 
her to associate with Ann Leach and with her hus- 
band and his lady daughter was impossible ! How- 
ever, he walked on resolutely, aware that this instinc- 
tive feeling was unseasonable. It was more his own 
fault than Emma's that Ann had given her hospitality 
for a night and a day ; and the world's view of Emma's 
conduct was of more consequence than its view of 
her relations. Only, of course, it was the two com- 
bined that made the difficulty ! He had felt that 
long ago, and he felt it more strongly now than 
ever. If she had been refined and well connected 
(like himself) people would have made excuses for her 
wretched early misfortunes ; they had tolerated her 
odious relations on the ground that she was herself 
an excellent woman. But a woman who had got 
into trouble and who associated with her sister-in- 
law Ann Leach, was, there could be little doubt, 
an inconvenient wife for Mr. Bryant. 

Once walking to church through the London 
streets, Mr. Bryant had dropped his Bible into some 
peculiarly unsavoury njud. He had felt it a duty, 
for the sake of reverence, in the presence of specta- 



GIANT DESPAIR 1 3 : 

tors, to fish it out and carry it home, and had done 
it with concealed disgust and steady resolution, 
knowing all the time that, though the dropping had 
been his own fault, the book would never be of the 
smallest use to him again, and that to cleanse it would 
be impossible. As he stepped along resolutely to- 
day to Mrs. Leach's house in the village street, he 
somehow found himself living over again that un- 
pleasing moment of plunging his white gentlemanly 
hands into the black pool wherein he had lost his 
sacred treasure. 



CHAPTER VII 

Nannie was out, SaUy sat on the steps with the 
baby, and Jimmy, Lizzie, and Polly were with 
their mother in the little shop, which had been 
closed since Ahck had left them. The girls were 
crying, and Ann as usual w^as talking. 

'We shall all be in the L^nion a month after 
your brother's in the 'sylum,' she said ; ' there is 
rent owing now to Sir Vincent and wages to AHck's 
lads, and all our savings are gone. I can't carpenter 
like Jim Leach your father gone to glory, nor 
paint nor do up oak like your brother gone mad. 
Alick's gift of fasting come from Jim Eandle, and 
don't agree with me, nor with none of you Jim 



132 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

Leach's children, saving though it would be. It 
ain't comely to go naked, and the shops won't pro- 
vide us clothes for gratitude. Lizzie Leach, and you 
there, Mary Ann, who's a big lass now, answer 
me. What are you going to do lor a living ? Wlio's 
going to feed you and clothe you and keep you 
'spectable now your stepbrother's put away ? I am 
glad to see you sob, Lizzie, for it shows a feeling 
heart and a sense of your circumstances. Cry away, 
my dear ; tears was the meat and drink of David, 
but Lord ! it's a footy sort of nourishment ! To- 
morrow, my dears, I'll take your little hands, and 
we'll go to the workhouse.' 

Lizzie knew that her mother did not mean it, 
and she had boundless faith in her cousin Nannie ; 
but she was a nervous child, and could no more help 
crying when her mother lamented, than she could 
help screaming when Alick preached about the 
devil ; and naturally little Polly cried for sympathy. 
But Mr. Bryant, who seldom passed a weeping child 
without a kind word, pushed to-day past the sobbing 
creatures impatiently, and made his way into the 
little parlour, where, according to Sally, he would 
find his wife. 

Yes, she was there — pale and miserable herself, 
with tear-stained eyehds and red patches on her cheeks ; 
untidy too — not more untidy than often at home, yet 
still, to Mr. Bryant's eye, infected by her surroundings 



GIAXT DESPAIR 133 

It seemed by mutual consent that any kiss or 
ceremonious greeting between them was omitted. 
' Come now, Emma. I have arranged matters. Come 
home at once/ said the husband. Mrs. Bryant stood, 
with her hands neryously clasped together, but she 
did not speak. * Georgina is in a better temper,' he 
continued, gloomily ; ' at least I hope so. We must 
put up ^^^.th her at any rate. You cannot remain 
here. You shouldn't have come.' 

' Shall you let me bring my child home with me, 
Xed ? ' 

' No ! not now :' he cried, exasperated. ' You are 
unreasonable, Emma, to make such a request at this 
moment ! Our difficulties are oyerwhelming abeady. 
I cannot burden myself with that girl at present.' 

* She is my child, and I love her better than any- 
thing in the world, though you have turned her 
against me, and she thinks me the wickedest of 
wicked women, because I have let her and other 
folk beheve what is not true.' 

' What is the use of reproaches, Emma ? All I 
ilid or suggested was in your interest,' he said, in a 
tone sulky from despair ; ' my ruin would inyolye 
yours, wouldn't it ? "We are not ruined now, if you 
will only be reasonable and come away quietly, from 
this house first, and then from EyerwelL' 

' You haye been yery selfish to me, Edward ! ' 
said Mrs. Bryant, without moving. 



134 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

' Oh, my God ! this is intolerable ! Well, 
well, have it so. I Jiave, been abominably sel- 
fish. We can't mend it now, so do, for God's 
sake, let it be.' 

' I'm not speaking of that, Edward. I was will- 
ing to bear reproach for you, because I thought 
you had always been kind. But it seems I was 
born to be deceived by men who speak to me fair 
and seem fond of me,' said Mrs. Bryant, raising her 
voice tremulously. 

' What on earth do you mean, Emma ? ' 

' If you'll let me have her now to be with me 
— to love and to comfort me — maybe I'll never say 
much. But I cannot love you like I did.' 

' What do you mean ? ' 

' Edward, you knew she was alive all along ! 
You let me mourn for her death and cry at her 
grave — me who v/as acting a mother's part to your 
child — and you knew she was alive and growing up 
motherless and to despise me. It was you who did 
it. You hated my darling, and wanted to be rid of 
her. It is all one as if you had murdered her ! ' 

Mr. Bryant let her say all this without interrup- 
tion. For a minute or two he had foreseen what was 
coming ; his heart was beating violently, his soul 
torn as if dragged by his good and bad angel at 
once. When she paused with an angry sob, he only 
shrugged his shoulders sneeringly and asked if she 



GIANT DESPAIR 135 

had got this wonderful story from Ann ; and Emma 
replied — 

' Of course I got it from Ann. It was she who 
helped you to do it. Is it not true, JSTed ? ' cried 
Mrs. Bryant. But he turned from her sharply and 
stood at the window, looking out. A strong breeze 
was blowing from the shore, and makincr white curls 
on the edges of the black waves ; already evening 
was appearing in the gray sky, and the fishermen 
were preparing for the night's work. The aspect of 
the street and the tossing ocean graved itself in Mr. 
Bryant's mind, though he had no consciousness of 
looking at anything. After aU, the man loved his 
wife, and his long treachery to her had been an in- 
tolerable burden. There would be luxury in con- 
fession to this woman whom he at once loved and 
despised. She, if none , other, would surely forgive 
when he told her the agony his sin had been to him. 
It was with something of enthusiasm that he turned 
and faced her, for his good angel had triumphed. 

' Emma,' he began almost eagerly, ' be merciful 
to me ! I protest I loved you then and I love 
you now. I have never loved any woman but your- 
self, and from first to last the thought that I was 
causing you distress has been acute suffering. 
Emma, my dearest, my wife ' 

Alas ! she was not magnanimous. She inter- 
rupted him. 



136 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

' Then you have deceived me as bad as ever he 
did, and I don't see no more reason why I should 
forgive you than forgive him.' Mr. Bryant's con- 
fession got no further. He turned away, his arms 
folded, and kept silence. 

' It's what Frederick would never have done ! ' 
she cried, ' to steal my child, and then to make me 
say I had deceived him when I hadn't ! And you 
pretending to be a better man than he ! I wish 1 
had never seen you ! I wish he was alive now that 
I might go to him, and tell him, and tell every- 
body, how you have served me ! ' There was a 
pause ; then Mr. Bryant forced himself to speak, 
hoping thus to stem the torrent of evil thoughts 
bursting over him and overwhelming his soul. 

'Very well, Emma, go and speak now. By 
Heaven, I believe it would be the best thing could 
happen to me ! ' 

' Will any one believe me now, Edward ? ' He 
shrugged his shoulders. ' Will you confess the 
truth ? ' There was a silence. Then he stepped to 
her side and held her arm with the grip of a vice, 
and his voice was loud and hissing. 

' Emma, say no more — now — to me nor to any 
one. There are dangers — temptations possible to 
me which you do not foresee. Come away ; let 
us begin a new life.' 

' No, I won't come,' said Mrs. Bryant, bitterly. 



I 

GIANT DESPAIR 137 

I can't forgive you. I will go away and live with 
my daughter ! ' 

Mr. Bryant dropped her arm and stood back 
with clenched hands, his white face seamed and 
shrunken. 

' For God's sake, Emma ! ' he cried, ' make to me 
no such horrible suggestion ! ' 



CHAPTEE VIII 

On the shore, Nannie had said, and her lover w^as 
there an hour before the sundown. At last Nannie 
was seen picking her way swiftly and unerringly 
over the slippery sea -weeds and the pools and 
channels left between the rocks by the retreating 
tide. There were children about, fishing for crabs 
and mussels ; the lovers could not w^ell talk together 
here, though less careful of spectators now that their 
secret was out. They moved on silently, Nannie 
with her eyes down and her head bent, till they had 
turned the great cliff which bounded the southern 
side of EverweU Bay, and they w^ere half way, by 
the low -water path, to Tanswick. Here they 
stopped at the edge of the retiring waves, which 
were restless and mournful to-night, plashing angrily 
at their feet, the foam ghastly under the faint gray 



138 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

clouds, and unillumined by the yellow streak of the 
sun's descent. It was here they had once met each 
other before, at the edge of the deep tideless basin 
with the forest of coloured sea- weeds. In it Vincent 
had seen the fair girl mirrored under the rosy sun- 
set light, long ago when he had come and had thrown 
himself at her feet ; and now she paused by its 
quiet depths and looked down sorrowfully as she 
saw her companion's chastened face in the mirror 
beside her own ; and a sob arose in her throat, and 
a tear fell from her tender eyes into its translucent 
calm. 

I suppose to a casual observer Nannie was far 
less fair than she had been that long past evening 
in the sunset glow. Now her soft bloom had faded, 
her cheek was wan and thin, her eyes were heavy 
with watching and with tears, the pleased, playful 
smile which had lurked in her dimples was lost. 
Then she had been a vision of youth and joy — a sea- 
nymph, a grace, a dream of nature and delight, of 
fancy and of hope made perfect. To-night, in her 
girlish form, she was a suffering woman, worn with 
care and tried by pain ; thinking that mirth and 
gladness and play were over for ever for her now, 
like the dolls and the sweetmeats of her childhood. 
But her lover looked into the soft depths of her 
saddened eyes, and did not question if they sparkled 
less ; for him they were starlike still. He did not 



GIANT DESPAIR 139 

think her less beautiful. It no longer mattered to 
him if she were beautiful or not. She was Nannie, 
and he loved her. 

At last the girl met his look. She held out his 
ring. ' Take it/ she said, ' and forgive me that I 
did not give it back before. T wanted to say good- 
bye in giving it.' 

' Why have you done this, Nannie ? ' he asked, 
quietly. 

Nannie pressed her hands to her breast as she 
answered, * There were many reasons ; only one I 
need tell you now. You know it — Alick.' 

' But you cannot marry Alick,' he said slowly, in 
a low voice. 

' Can I not ? Will he never be well enough for 
that ? ' 

' I don't suppose so. I don't know that he will 
ever be free again. If he were, still you could not 
do it. He has no right to marry.' 

' Why ? If he were cured — ' said Nannie, 
trembling. 

' I do not know that they are ever thoroughly 
cured. It is a curse. It breaks hearts ; it leaves 
homes bare ; it plunges into crime. It brings end- 
less desolation, and sometimes remorse. You have 
seen all that, Nannie ? Marriage for a man or a 
woman with that disease means spreading it. 
Listen, Nannie ; if it were you who had lost your 



I40 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

reason, not Alick, though you were to be cured 
within a month, I would not have you for my 
wife.' 

There was a pause. ' I wonder if you could be 
right ! ' said ;N"annie ; ' no one else has spoken so to 
me. Every one does not think so ? ' 

' Yes, Nannie, I believe I am right. People owe 
a duty to their race — to their children. If he 
recover, he is just the man to understand your reason 
and to acquiesce. Whether he understands or not, 
you must not marry Alick.' 

' And then ' 

' Then you will marry me,' he said very gently, 
coming a step nearer and holding out his hands. 

' No,' said Nannie, steadily. There was a long 
silence. 

' Have you given up loving me, my very dearest ? ' 
he said at last. 

'Not quite. I wish I had. I am trying every 
day — every hour. I have succeeded so far that I 
can talk quietly, you see, to you about it, and can 
tell you that — that — I don't any longer want to do 
it,' said Nannie, with an agitation which belied her 
words. 

' What have I done, my Nannie ? ' 

' You ? Nothing.' 

' Some one has been talking to you ? My 
mother ' 



GIANT DESPAIR 141 

' Yes. She, and my brother, and my own sense. 
I should be unsuitable to you. I had it all ready 
to explain before ever I was carried away to 
Faverton. But I don't w^ant to explain it now. 
There is a bigger barrier between us, and we 
cannot climb over it, and we must not try. It is 
Alick.' 

' But — ' he hesitated, afraid to press the question 
of her love for the unhappy Alick. 

' What you have said,' continued Nannie, ' even 
if it is true — ah, please, sir, forgive me ! I know 
you w^ouldn't say what you didn't think, and hadn't 
good reasons for thinking ; only — it doesn't seem so 
to me. And it makes no difference.' 

' No difference, Nannie ? ' The girl did not 
answer at once ; at last she spoke slowly, looking 
far away at the horizon and the out-faring fishing 
sails. 

'Do you remember, sir, how we agreed, when 
you had asked me to marry you, and I had said. No, 
there w^ere too many difficulties, how we agreed to 
wait, you and I ? To wait for ever perhaps, but to 
be sweethearts still ? ' 

' Of course I remember. It was fantastic. It 
would not have been serious with any one but you 
and me. It was not very serious with us, Nannie ; 
you knew that when you yielded to Alick. I 
regret very much, Nannie, that you and I ever 



142 MR, BRYANTS MISTAKE 

declined into anything not entirely serious. I ought 
not to have suggested it ; I ought not to have 
allowed you to do it. , It would not have been 
understood ; and as it was, it brought difficulty. 
I ask you to-day, Nannie, for forgiveness.' 

She raised her eyes to his, surprised by his 
self-reproach. ' I do not regret anything,' said 
Nannie, gently ; 'for that which you call fanciful, 
but which made us happy, has taught me, now that 
everything is very difficult and very sad, what to 
do about Alick.' 

'What are you going to do about Alick, my 
dearest ? ' 

' I have been to see him,' said Nannie, in a low 
dreary voice, looking at the sand below her feet ; 
' he has broken down ; the long strain, and the 
trouble, and hearing all that about himself, has 
been too much. He is very ill. He cannot think 
or speak like other people. There can no longer 
be any doubt — And what has made him so is 
sorrow — sorrow in his soul. But he knew me. He 
was glad to see me — oh so glad ! He called me 
his sweetheart, and his own, and he said if I would 
be true to him he could endure all the horrible 
misery ; I was the one bit of joy he had left. And 
I told him. Yes, I would be true. I told him I had 
not spoken lightly when I had given him my 
promise, but I had thought it well over, and was 



GIANT DESPAIR 143 

prepared to hold to what I had said. I told him 
he might love me, and I — ' Nannie paused, ' I 
would love him as I had promised before this 
terrible trouble came upon us. I told Alick all 
that this morning. I mean it. I shall not go 
back from it. My promise is the only bit of 
comfort he has in a world that has all turned 
to ashes. And I will never take it back from 
him.' 

'Even if you know he can never marry you, 
Nannie ? ' 

' I do not know that yet. But yes, I will be 
his sweetheart. His wife who is parted from him, 
for ever perhaps ; but his faithful wife still.' 

' Do you think an unrealisable hope, a barren 
fancy, will be a comfort to Alick ? ' 

' I know it will. An unrealisable, barren fancy 
was a comfort to me.' 

Vincent shook his head. ' You and I were not 
hopeless, Nannie; and it seems we were not 
serious.' He spoke a little bitterly and paused ; then 
resumed gently, ' I think you will only make 
him restless; keep up in his mind a vain fire 
that will consume him and lead in the end — to 
nothing.' 

'No. It is not so with Alick now. If ever I 
see it is bad for him, I wiU end it somehow. But 
only for his sake. At present it is good, and I am 



144 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

ready for it to be good to the end. And/ added 
Nannie in a low, firm voice, ' if ever he claims the 
fulfilment of my promise, I will be his wife/ 
Again Vincent shook his head gravely. 

' You don't think of yourself at all, Nannie ? ' 

' Oh no,' said the girl, simply. 

' Nor of me ? ' She coloured, and held out her 
hand impulsively. 

' I couldn't be yours anyway ! ' she cried ; ' if I 
could, I might be puzzled. But even then — yes, I 
am sure, even tlun, I should ask you to give me up ! 
Though I would cut off my hand to please you, I 
should give you up and hold on to my poor Alick ! 
He has nothing else ; and he is weak and broken, 
and unable to suffer. And you, oh yes ! you have 
many other hopes and joys ; and you are so strong, 
so strong ! You can bear it, and he cannot.' 
Vincent was too much moved to speak. He had 
taken her outstretched hands in his and was pressing 
them to his lips. For a moment she leaned her 
head against his arm and sobbed a little. ' I want 
you to help me ! ' she murmured, raising her tear- 
dimmed eyes to his again. ' It feels very hard 
sometimes. It wasn't that sort of love I ever 
wanted to give Alick. Is it wrong to feel 
that ? ' 

' Wrong ? Oh, my sweet little Nannie ! ' His 
lips touched her hair. Then he released her hands 



GIANT DESPAIR 145 

and reseated her, taking up his own position again 
at a little distance. 

' Nannie, may I speak very plainly ? Once and 
for all ? ' 

' Yes, if it is to help me.' 

' I suppose men are selfish brutes,' said Vincent, 
slowly ; ' they don't easily mount to the peaks of 
self-sacrifice, upon which women stand quite natur- 
ally in idea, and some women — like you — in practice.' 
He could not keep up the cynical tone. 'Very 
likely you are miles nearer the right than I ; but I 
question, and very seriously, if that sort of self- 
abnegation is justifiable — if it u right, in fact. It 
may be ; but oh, my darling, my darling, be very 
sure, before you do it ; before you spoil your own 
life, and the life of the man you love — ' he 
paused, giving her an opportunity to correct that 
expression if she wished. 

' Xo, your life is not to be spoiled,' interrupted 
Nannie, earnestly ; ' you have many, many things 
left — you know it I ' 

' True ; never mind me. But before you spoil 
your own Kfe, for the sake of a distraught mind 
which does not know the sacrifice you are making ; 
for the sake of a poor fellow to whom, after all, you 
can give no solid boon ; and who in the end may 
sink into mere obh\ion, and reward you for your 
life's sacrifice by ingratitude and even by dislike. 
VOL. Ill 49 



146 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

If you loved him, then indeed — Ah, my dar- 
ling, consider if it be not overstrained, unreal ; a 
mistaking of the relative value of things, that is not 
pleasing to the gods, Nannie, and that will bring 
disaster upon us all. I am supposing that Alick 
will never be well enough for the question of 
marriage practically to arise. But if he should be 
again given his liberty, your position will become 
still more difficult. I have given you my decided 
opinion that marriage in such a case is a distinct 
social wrong. Supposing you had come to think so 
too, would you not find it more difficult and more un- 
kind to draw back then than now ? There, dearest, 
I had to say it. I daresay I am wrong, and what 
you want to do is really magnanimous. But I don't 
see it altogether so — the deed I mean, not you ; and 
I prefer that you should know my opinion.' Nannie 
was long silent. 

' Perhaps you are right,' she said at last ; ' you 
are much wiser than I. But I do not feel as you 
do, and I must go by what seems right to me, 
mustn't I ? One can't go by any one else's 
feeling, even if it is a very dear friend. Merely to 
suggest deserting Alick would break his heart. 
There is very little I can do for him, but it seems 
right to do that little. I am sure I should not 
have a moment's happiness if I didn't do it. Don't 
you see ?' 



GIANT DESPAIR 147 

' 1 see that you are a darling,' said Vincent. 

' Oh ! ' cried Nannie, bursting into tears, ' I do 
feel that so much of it was my own fault. I 
hindered you, sir, when you wanted to help him : 
and I didn't speak plain enough to him about you 
and me ; and I helped to set the people against 
him ; and that day — that dreadful day — just 
when he needed me most, I had run away and 
left him.' 

' I am beyond words thankful that you had run 
away, Nannie,' said Vincent. 

' I thought he was wanting to hurt youl mur- 
mured Nannie. 

* Darling, you must not fancy any of it was your 
fault,' said Vincent, his arm round her, for her sobs 
pierced his heart. Yet he remembered how at one 
time he had himself felt, and almost indignantly, 
that she was deceiving the unhappy Alick. 

' Don't you see,' whispered Nannie, her hand in 
his, * 1 Iznow I should have repentance and remorse 
to my life's end, if I did not try to restore him out 
of his great misery. No one can do it but I, and 
there is only the one way I can do it. Please, 
please don't say any more against it. I should like 
to say good-bye now,' said Nannie, with trembhng 
lips. 

The sad waves were rolling shorewards again, 
and the sun had long vanished. A gray, rain- 



148 MR, BRYANTS MISTAKE 

boding twilight was enwrapping everything. There 
was no boat at hand to-day, and they rose slowly 
and moved homewards, chased by the steadily 
encroaching tide. His arm was still round her, 
and Nannie was still now and then shaken 
by her subsiding sobs. Before they had rounded 
the point into Everwell Bay, Vincent stopped 
her. 

'Nannie, if ever you should change your mind 
about Alick ' 

' I should be so grateful if you would not say 
that kind of thing,' she murmured. 

' I must say it this once. If you should change 
your mind about Alick ; if you should want me for 
your lover again, Nannie, dearest, dearest Nannie ! 
you will tell me.' She shook her head sorrowfully 
without answering. ' And before we part, for it is 
parting — I am going to ask you very humbly, and, 
Nannie, gratefully oh, my darling, for one dear, last 
kiss.' He spoke very quietly, standing before her 
with his hands pressing hers, but making no advance 
till he had permission. The girl's face became 
white as ashes as she gazed at him. She seemed 
to realise for the first time what she was requiring 
of him. 

' Oh,' she cried, vehemently, ' yes ! we have 
kissed each other ! I shall never forget it. But 
since then Alick has kissed me, and it is his right 



GIANT DESPAIR 149 

to do it again. I cannot, cannot go from one to the 
other like that. Do not ask it ! ' 

'I can never tell you, Nannie,' said Vincent, 
gravely, ' how I love you ; what it costs me to give 
you up like this.' 



PAKT XI 
SOME AEE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 



CHAPTER I 

Grass grows green upon every grave, and long 
before three years were out, the Randies and the 
Bryants, mere meteors at Everwell, had disappeared ; 
Alick and Nannie were seldom mentioned ; and the 
whole nine days' wonder had, to all appearance, 
vanished from every one's memory. Of the actors 
in it, none remained at Everwell except Sir Vincent 
Leicester, who still lived at the Heights with his 
mother. 

Changes were in progress under his regime. Tans- 
wick was not yet a fashionable watering-place, but 
the hotel on the plateau was actually in operation, 
and that barbarian, the speculative builder, had 
arrived, leased a plot of ground, and begun to run 
up two pretty little red houses in the modern style, 
designed to be Let in Apartments. The hotel was a 
plaything for Vincent, and he kept it under his own 
thumb, delighted when he encountered the ladies in 
poke bonnets and the artists with velvet coats and large 
leisure, who were as yet the most numerous visitors. 



154 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

Vincent had sold the Faverton estate to the 
Manchester manufacturer, who had first taken the 
house upon lease. Lord Henslow protested, but had 
no arguments ready when his grandson explained 
that he wanted money ; and no one suggested that 
Vincent was not laying out his money reasonably at 
Everwell. He had arrested the old house in its 
march to decay ; was restoring the church and 
pulling down the worst of the fishing huts, which 
clustered round the mouth of the beck. And there 
was a new landing-place for the fish and a pulley for 
the boats ; a commodious establishment too for the 
endless herring-curing, of which the old appoint- 
ments had been enough to reduce salt herrings to 
the catalogue of unclean meats till the end of time. 
Everwell was less picturesque, but it was more 
wholesome. There had been even some exercise of 
despotism on the matter of beach proprieties, mounds 
of decaying fish-heads and other unseemlinesses being 
rigorously prohibited. Dr. Verrill had fewer fevers 
to study and if there was still drinking there was 
less brawling, and if there had been no revival of 
hymn-singing much of the obscene and blasphemous 
ribaldry had somehow gone with the fish -heads. 
Dr. Verrill, that minute philosopher, perceived a 
difference, and had to confess that some of it was 
the result of a stern policy of eviction which Sir 
Vincent was pursuing with the ruthlessness of an 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 155 

Irish exterminator. ' You are ruining your own 
soul by it,' he said to his landlord ; * already, Sir 
Vincent, I observe in you physiognomical signs of 
deterioration towards cruelty ; but I admit you are 
acting in accordance with nature, which is immoral 
from first to last.' 

Vincent, however, was very fond of the man of 
science, and showed so much interest in the vege- 
tables that Dr. Verrill was never without hope of 
improving his character, when (as he expressed it) 
some of the fires of youth had burned down in his 
stomach. ' Wait till that day, my dear sister,' said 
the little man, ' to bid him to dinner with us. At 
present he is a glutton. I tell him so daily, but I 
don't expect him to listen till his morbid appetite 
begins to fail. You never saw a hungry man dine 
on Brussels sprouts, did you ? ' concluded the doctor, 
triumphantly. 

Friends with Dr. Verrill, Vincent was also at 
peace with his grandfather. Old Lord Henslow, in 
warm weather, was often at Everwell, and Vincent 
and his mother were much at Henslow, for the 
Countess had died ; and the Ladies Jane and Elinor 
were somewhat grim companions for the old man, 
who was not on the best of terms with his sons. 
He had taken a liking for Vincent ; had even got 
into a senile way of asking his grandson's opinion, 
to Lady Katharine's delight and to Vincent's amuse- 



156 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

ment ; for the ideas of the latter were not cast in 
the same mould as those of the Kane family, and he 
had sometimes a difficulty in getting them even 
comprehended. At the present moment Lord Hen- 
slow was much exercised by two projects for his 
grandson : one was to get him into Parliament ; the 
other, to marry him to Victoria Leslie, a Scotch 
heiress, who with her parents was on a visit to 
Henslow at the same time as Vincent and Lady 
Katharine. 

' A magnificent girl ! ' said the old man, daily ; 
'as handsome as young Astley's bride elect, the 
beautiful Miss Bryant. Eh, sir ? ' 

' No,' replied Vincent; ' Georgina takes the apple. 
But I daresay Miss Leslie is better tempered.' He 
smiled, for the breadth of his grandfather's hints 
was amusing ; but he was not annoyed, for he had 
no hankerings after Miss Bryant and Victoria was 
charming. 

' If I had seen her long ago ! ' he said to himself 
sometimes. ' She would have worn very much better 
than Georgina.' 

Victoria was an active, lively girl, with a kind 
word for everybody, especially, perhaps, for the old 
and dull, by whom she was idolised in consequence. 
All her short life she had passed in a blaze of sun- 
shine, and it had not scorched her ; on the contrary, 
she had blossomed gratefully in it, like a flower. 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 157 

Vincent, who for three winters had been thinking 
all women uninteresting and all amusement forced, 
was surprised by his own liking for this pretty lady ; 
the onlookers saw sometimes a kindling of en- 
thusiasm in his eyes as he watched her — eyes 
grown, as Lady Katharine had feared, inveterately 
reserved and grave. She smiled on the girl as, after 
a long day in the saddle with Vincent at her side, 
Victoria, scarcely more fatigued than he, chatted to 
him familiarly over her music books in the evening ; 
and Mrs. Leslie indeed smiled too, for she thought 
Vincent would be a very suitable husband, and did 
not feel herself able to cope with the fortune 
hunters in the great world, whither she was even 
now bearing her richly dowered and trustful and 
beloved only child to be exhibited and bargained 
for. But neither mother could hear the conversa- 
tion between the two young people who were 
standing together at the piano, looking over some 
new music. Victoria now and then played a few 
notes or hummed a few bars in a rich contralto 
voice ; but Vincent was no great musician, and 
though he liked Miss Leslie's singing, was at the 
present moment becoming a little bored, and trying 
to hear what Victoria's father was sajdng at the far 
end of the room about a new Conservative paper. 
He opened one of the songs at random. 

' Why, how grave you are ! ' exclaimed Miss 



IS8 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

Leslie presently ; ' have you found something nice ? 
Do let me see.' She jumped up impulsively and 
looked over the page with him. Vincent left the 
sheets in her hand. * What pretty words ! ' said 
the girl, and read aloud in a sweet, measured voice, 
of no emotion — 

' Alas, that Spring should vanish with the Rose ! 
That Youth's sweet-scented Manuscript should close ! 

The Nightingale that in the Branches sang, 
Ah, whence, and whither flown again, who knows ! 

Ah, Love ! could thou and I with Fate conspire 
To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire, 
Would not we shatter it to bits — and then 
Eemould it nearer to the Heart's Desire ? 

Ah, Moon of my Delight, who know'st no wane, 
The Moon of Heav'n is rising once again : 
How oft hereafter rising shall she look 
Through this same Garden after me — in vain ! 

And when Thyself with shining Foot shall pass 
Among the Guests, Star-scatter'd on the Grass, 

And in thy joyous Errand reach the Spot 
Where I made one turn down an empty Glass.' 

' Don't you think that is pretty ? ' cried the girl. 
But he made no reply, and looking up she perceived 
that his thoughts were far away and sadder than 
her own. ' What is the matter ? ' she asked, im- 
pulsively, and Vincent saw a glowing, sympathetic 
face close to his ; she was looking at him, quite 
forgetful of herself. He laughed a little hollowly. 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 159 

* I believe I was turning down an empty glass, 
he said ; ' never mind. No, don't sing those sugary 
lines. Let us find something else.' 

* I wish you would tell me what they made you 
think of ! ' said Victoria, out of sheer kindness of 
heart ; ' you looked so sad ! ' 

' Did I ? What manners ! ' Then, as she seemed 
distressed and rebuffed, he added, looking at her, 
' You would not see the connection if I told you. 
But I have sometimes raged at the moon for rising 
and looking down as usual on the garden from 
which the nightingale has flown. Haven't you ? 
Hasn't every one ? ' 

No, Victoria had no sad memories of any sort as 
yet. She coloured deeply with a sort of awe at her 
intrusion into the young man's secrets, and of 
delight that he should talk to her of them. 

' Was it — is she dead ? ' whispered Victoria, 
with dewy eyes and a sense of great compassion for 
the comrade who had laughed and played with her, 
as if his heart had been ever as untouched as her own. 

' No,' said Vincent, retiring into his shell again, 
and thinking her very young, unable to imagine any 
bereavement but by death. 

' Then I do hope you will meet her again some 
day,' she said, earnestly ; and Vincent only smiled, 
repeating to hunself that she would have worn very 
much better than Georgina. 



•i6o MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

But his thoughts had flown to the suffering 
Nannie, to whom he had said farewell in the gray 
light of the autumn sunset, while the ruffled waves 
plashed dolefully at their feet. 

' Oh, my darling ! Two whole years and a great 
deal more, and I have never seen her. I wonder if 
Nannie thinks I have forgotten ! ' 



CHAPTEE II 

The unhappy Alick was still in confinement, but 
surrounded by every comfort possible to his con- 
dition. His calm was untrustworthy, and he had 
never recovered from the melancholy into which he 
had sunk ; stiU he was for the most part quiet and 
rational enough. He found occupation in his paint- 
ing ; he had Nannie for a hope, and at least one 
friend whose frequent visits were a pleasure. For 
Vincent Leicester, with persevering kindliness, had 
at last succeeded in thawing the icy reserve in 
which Alick had enshrouded himself; lu was the 
friend, and always welcomed now with brightening 
eyes, a wan smile, and at least a few sentences of 
unconstrained and sometimes eager talk. Alick 
had seemed to Vincent a bequest from the parting 
Nannie, and even if he had had no personal affec- 
tion for the sufferer, he would have tended him to 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD i6i 

the extent of his power for her dear sake. And Alick 
often seemed to forget that his friend had been his 
rival ; seemed to see in him now the one only person 
who understood the ins and outs of his relation to his 
sweetheart, and felt for him in the mingled joy and 
sorrow of his accepted love, followed by bitter and 
almost instantaneous separation from his betrothed. 

' She is waiting for me,' the captive would say ; 
' she is ready to wait a long time. Maybe it won't 
be very long now. I'd be sorry to keep her waiting 
much longer now.' Vincent did not answer, for 
these hopeful moods of Alick's touched him more 
than his far more usual gloom. ' You see a change 
in me, sir, don't you ? You think I'm better ? The 
doctor says so.' 

' You look first-rate, Alick,' said Vincent ; and it 
was true, for the moment. Alick laughed, and 
stretched his arms before him, with the air of a 
strong man preparing for some hard work which he 
enjoyed. 

' When I get thinking of my Nannie,' he said, 
' and how she loves me and is waiting for me, I 
almost forget that I've had any troubles. She's like 
the shining sun to me. It would be a poor sort of 
world, sir, wouldn't it ? if every day was like 
yesterday with a murk over the sea from rise to 
set. Oh ! I mind me how the sun used to shine 
over the morning sea at Everwell, and how the 

VOL. Ill 50 



1 62 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

sparkles come in my Nannie's eye to see it. Will 
you tell her, sir, when you speak with her next, that 
she's the sun to me, breaking through the murk and 
shining out over the sea.' 

' But you forget Nannie is not at Everwell now,' 
said Vincent. 

'Ay, I forgot that,' returned Alick, as if dis- 
appointed. ' It's hard to think of her anywhere 
else. Is mother a sober woman nowadays, sir,' he 
asked presently, ' as she's got my Nannie living with 
her?' 

' I expect she is, but I only hear of them through 
you, so I cannot inform you,' said Vincent. Alick 
found Nannie's last letter and studied the address, 
smiling as he read a word or two. 

' Charles Street, she says. Do you know where 
that is, sir ? ' 

' I could find it if you wished, Alick,' said 
Vincent, looking at his watch ; ' I am going to 
London before long.' 

Alick flashed a doubtful look at him, and was 
silent for a time. 

' London's a big place, they say. The Babylon 
it talks of in the Eevelation, with the merchandise 
of gold and cinnamon and horses, and souls of men. 
It's to be thrown down by an angel some day, like 
a millstone, till there's no more at all the voice of 
harpers and musicians, nor of bridegroom and bride, 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 163 

nor no craftsman any more, nor light of a candle. I 
do not so greatly like my Nannie being there. But 
our minister here says I was mistaken in thinking 
it meant London. He says it's Eome and the pope. 
What do you think, sir ? ' 

' I think it might have been old Eome,' said 
Vincent, * before the pope was invented. Shall I 
bring you a book about it ? ' 

' Ay,' said Alick, listlessly, evidently thinking of 
something else. Presently he resumed in the same 
inattentive voice, ' I like the way the words go in 
that Eevelation chapter. I was making views from 
it. I've took to charcoal lately, sir ; it goes quicker 
than the chalk. There's one of the merchants stand- 
ing afar off from the smoke of her burning. And 
another of them with dust on their heads, weeping 
and wailing — Maybe my Xannie would like to 
see the sketches if you'd take 'em to her,' he ended 
suddenly. 

* I'm to go then, Alick ? ' 

' Ay,' said Alick, in a very low voice. He looked 
up beseechingly at his friend, who was bending 
towards him a little, meeting his gaze. A flush 
rose and faded on Alick's worn face, and there was 
silence. Presently he looked away again, and said 
in a broken voice, ' I'd like some one to see her and 
tell me if she's looking well — my lassie.' Vin- 
cent's time was up, and he rose, taking the man's 



1 64 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

hand and pressing it with more meaning than 
usual. 

' I'll think it over, Alick/ he said, slowly. 



CHAPTEE III 

Mr. Bryant, in coming to the final arrangement 
with his wife, had expressed his desire that she 
should ' live like a lady.' He had himself selected 
a nice little house for her in a quiet part of London, 
and had put her in possession of an income ; no 
very large one, for the fortune inherited from the 
worthy grocer had not gone so far as had originally 
been intended, and Mr. Bryant had an expensive 
daughter and an expensive sphere of labour in the 
Cathedral city, where he speedily became the bosom 
friend of the Bishop. Still he was as liberal to his 
wife as he could afford to be, and the house he chose 
was very nice, and he furnished it himself very 
nicely and comfortably indeed. 

But there were more people in that house 
than just Mrs. Bryant and Nannie. John Eandle 
had given his sister a little fixed allowance, quite 
a fortune for a working girl, as he supposed 
her to be ; but Ann Leach and her children had 
no source of revenue at all ; and greatly to the 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 165 

clergyman's annoyance, all these persons belonged 
to Mrs. Bryant's establishment. For Nannie had 
altogether refused to abandon Alick's mother ; and 
it would not have suited Mr. Bryant that his wife 
should not have the company of her so-called niece. 
He perpetually soothed his conscience with the 
reflection that he had — at great sacrifice to himself 
— given Emma the great wish of her heart — her 
daughter. So Mrs. Leach and her progeny, from 
Lizzie down, lived in the kitchen, and Mrs. Bryant 
sat upstairs in the drawing-room. It was not at first 
very clear to which floor Nannie Eandle belonged. 

After a month or so, however, Nannie awoke to 
the fact that these arrangements were unsatisfactory. 
Mrs. Bryant was lonely, unhappy, and uncomfort- 
able ; and Mr. Bryant wrote a severe letter, saying 
that if all these people lived in his wife's house, they 
must pay for board and lodging, like any other 
honest lodgers. Nannie, with a tear of remorse, set 
to work again and reorganised the establishment. 
' A proper servant' seemed to be Aunt Emma's great 
wish, so her niece smoothed the way for one ; and 
she told Mrs. Leach she must get some employ- 
ment so as to pay for the children's clothes, food, 
and schooling. No one ever thought of resisting 
Nannie ; but on this occasion Mrs. Leach sat down 
and cried, and wondered why she had ever come 
away from Everwell. 



i66 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

' It minds me of the days of my first widowliood, 
Nan,' she said, ' and when I was just wondering how 
ever I should do, Jim Leach come along. I was 
young and 'andsome then, Nan, and my poor boy 
was a taking little chap. Jim Leach noticed him. 
I doubt if Polly and Jimmy and my posthumous 
darling hadn't been his own children, he'd never 
have noticed tlie^m' Nannie smiled. 

' Come now, Aunt Ann ; what work will you do ? ' 

' I suppose I could go charing or keep a grocery,' 
answered Mrs. Leach without hesitation, and Nannie 
laughed again. 

The girl put on her hat and walked down two 
streets to a house with a brass plate : ' Dr. Stilford ; ' 
she had seen the gentleman in church, and had 
studied his countenance, and she felt he was the 
man to help her now. No one ever saw Nannie 
without taking a fancy to her, and the old doctor 
was no exception to the rule. He spoke to her with 
the utmost kindness. Nannie gave a slight sketch 
of the family history, enough to awaken his interest ; 
and then said her aunt wanted work ; she was for 
the moment entertained by a kind relative, but she 
wanted to support herself. She was handy and 
clever. Could not Dr. Stilford get her some jobs of 
nursing ? 

' Send her to see me,' said he ; ' but, my dear 
girl, all the ladies and gentlemen want hospital- 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 167 

trained nurses now.' Nannie smiled a little and 
replied — 

' Aunt is rather a funny-spoken person, sir. I 
don't think she would suit ladies and gentlemen.' 

Who could refuse Nannie ? Dr. Stilford in- 
spected Mrs. Leach, wrote to Dr. Verrill for ' refer- 
ences,' and finally sent his new lieutenant to see 
after the family of his greengrocer, in trouble with 
a new-born baby, a boy iu the croup, and a con- 
sumptive sister-in-law. And a highly successful 
nurse Mrs. Leach proved. 

'My precious,' she said to Nannie, having re- 
turned after her night's watch, ' take the key and 
open my desk Jim Eandle gave me, and take out 
my pledge card signed by that wicked man, Ned 
Bryant, and bring it to me.' 

* Yes, auntie. Did you cure all the sick 
folk ?' 

' Ay, their bodies is better ; it was a deal of it 
dirt as ailed them. And there was that poor man 
and his brother (who's his partner and a widow- 
man, and civil to me, and is good-looking, with a 
blue suit) thinking kidneys a right thing for break- 
fast ! I made them some turnip porridge, for they 
had over many roots in their shop. And didn't 
they relish it ! Eun, my dear, and get me my 
pledge card.' 

' Yes, auntie, but why V 



i6S MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

' 1 want to see how soon it will be out, Nan/ 
said poor thirsty Mrs. Leach. 

' Nonsense, aunt ! ' responded Nannie, cheerfully, 
as often before. 

And so Mrs. Leach got into work ; and if she 
broke her pledge once or twice it was never dis- 
gracefully, and she always came much ashamed 
with a confession to Nannie, and many marvellous 
excuses. Nannie watched her with great satisfac- 
tion, and wrote happily of her to the poor fallen 
prophet. 

But it was never easy to comfort Alick. 'Lassie, 
lassie,' he wrote, ' for mercy's sake, do not leave thy 
poor lad's mother, nor think she has no more need 
of thy help and of thy prayers.' 

Ah 1 those despairing letters from Alick ! Nannie 
always read them alone, and with scalding tears, and 
sometimes a supplication that he might die and end 
his hopeless grief in the quiet oblivion of the grave. 
But as the months rolled on, his letters did become 
a little brighter. He seemed to have partially 
forgotten what the sins were for which he was 
punished, and to dwell more on his thoughts of her, 
and the hope of some day possessing her at last. * I 
hope it too,' Nannie would say to herself, pressing 
her hand to her aching heart ; ' oh, I do — surely I 
do hope it may end so.' 

By degrees Nannie learned the whole of Mrs. 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 169 

Bryant's history, and grew tender in her thoughts 
of the deserted woman. But they had found each 
other far too late ; and, aunt or mother, Mrs. Bryant's 
nature was unsympathetic to the girl's. Nannie 
in her youthful inexperience did not perceive that 
just as surely as Alick's reason had been overthrown 
by disappointment, so also was this w^eak woman's 
house left unto her desolate. The great crises in 
her life were past ; all or one of the storms she had 
weathered would have shipwrecked many a heart of 
sterner stuff; but to her they were simply un- 
comprehended and desolating. Hers was a simple, 
guileless, loving nature, which could smile at a 
pleasure or weep at a harsh word, adequate for the 
little joys, the little griefs, the little cares of an 
ordinary happy woman's career. She had never 
been meant for a heroine or a tragedy queen. When 
she had recovered her daughter — the girl for whom 
she had mourned and agonised — she could only give 
her childish caresses and exigent complaints. 'I have 
wanted you all these years, Mary,' she would say, 
' and now you will not even dine with me !' Nannie, 
in whose imagination was a widely different ideal 
of a mother, did not at once see the pathos of it. 

But after a time she did consent to sit at table 
with the poor lonely lady, and to be waited on by 
Emily the maid ; and in the afternoons she came into 
the drawing-room and helped Mrs. Bryant with her 



170 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

fancy work. One day Mrs. Browne, the vicar's wife, 
and her sister, Miss Heath, came to call, and they 
found Nannie sitting thus with her aunt. 

' What a pretty creature !' said the two ladies 
to each other as they came away ; ' and with such 
a nice modest manner. We will ask that girl to 
tea some day when we are alone. And there is 
nothing visibly scandalous about Mrs. Bryant. We 
feel sure she does not drink. She seems a very 
quiet person ; not quite a lady probably. We may 
safely invite both her and her niece to our mis- 
sionary meeting.' And then, like every one else, 
they added, ' Poor Mr. Bryant ! What a sad 
business this must have been for him ! ' 

Emma never got on with Mrs. Browne, the 
model, bustling vicar's wife, such as she ought to 
have been herself But the two ladies took a great 
interest in Nannie, and the girl responded to their 
kindness with gratitude and friendliness. Mrs. 
Browne asked her a great many questions, and 
Nannie answered them simply enough, and with a 
feeling of pleasure in having a counsellor. ' When 
we came to London,' said Nannie, ' I thought we 
were all going to live as working people. Aunt 
Leach never could possibly be anything else. Aunt 
Emma and she are fond of each other, but they have 
a few words now and then. I don't think it would 
do for them to be too much mixed up. I hope I 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 171 

am not wrong in being so much with Aunt Emma ? 
I don't w^ant to pretend I am a lady ; but she is so 
lonely all by herself ! ' 

' You are quite right, my dear/ said Mrs. Browne ; 
' and you are quite fit for poor Mrs. Bryant's drawing- 
room ; and for mine. Don't be shy. You have a 
better manner than Miss Mustard, my governess, 
who goes everywhere. When you are in doubt 
about some little question of etiquette don't be 
ashamed to ask me or my sister. ]S"ow, you will 
come to my little girl's birthday party, won't you ? 
You will enjoy it. There will be games, and a little 
dancing, and a number of our young friends, some 
about your own age.' 

' Oh no, no !' cried Nannie, ' I could not go to a 
party ! ' 

Nevertheless every one seemed to w4sh it ; and 
Nannie eventually submitted, partly out of curiosity. 
Mrs. Bryant bought her a grand evening dress, 
copied from one of Georgina's fascinating frocks, 
and Nannie, terrified by the first \dew of her own 
splendour, was by far the prettiest girl in Mrs. 
Browne's drawing-room. Even the chaperons ad- 
mired her, and young Mr. Braithw^aite, the jeune 
premier of the occasion, asked her to dance. But 
Nannie, w^ho had played at all the childish games, 
was not for dancing. She sat aloof with the question- 
able governess's dowdy sister, whose mother kept a 



172 MR. Bryant's mistake 

Finishing School ; became friendly with the young 
lady, and learnt the names of those sciences in which 
her education had been deficient. * Perhaps you 
would like to join some of the girls' classes V said 
Miss Mustard, eagerly, on the watch for new pupils. 

When Nannie returned late that night, having 
walked home, the pretty dress bundled up under a 
cloak, Mrs. Bryant met her anxiously in the hall. 
' My dear, my dear,' said Emma, ' why ever didn't 
you have a cab ? Were not you frightened in the 
streets at this hour and in that dress ? ' 

'Oh no !' said Nannie ; ' I am not easily 
frightened. Do ladies never walk away from 
parties. Aunt Emma?' 

' No, love, nemr. Did you enjoy it, my darling ? 
Were they all polite to you ? ' 

Nannie rested her chin on her hand, and looked 
abstractedly into the fireplace. 

* I was glad to go for once,' she said, ' and every- 
body was very kind ; and there were such lovely 
little children. But no, I shan't go no more to any- 
thing of the sort. Parties are for rich people who 
are young and have no sorrows. I am not very 
old, but still it was quite unsuitable to me.' 

' Why, Nannie,' said Mrs. Bryant, ' I daresay 
many of the smart people you saw to-night have 
tears in their eyes often.' 

' Then why were they there ? ' cried Nannie. 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 173 

' It is like the Arab women we heard about at the 
missionary meeting, who make feasts on the tombs 
in the graveyard ! There are graves in my life, 
aunt ; they don't show much, but ah ! I will not 
dance and feast on them. Thank you for the lovely 
gown. I look nice in it, don't I ? I heard some 
one call me pretty — me, little Nan, with the red 
hair ! But I shall not dress up so again. I went 
once to look on. I shall not ojo asjain.' 

In her room Xannie did not, however, immedi- 
ately tear off the pretty dress. She looked at her- 
self in the glass, and she thought of the compliments, 
the admiring eyes, the young man's wish to dance 
with her. Xannie was not elated ; but she had 
appreciated it all, and was pleased. ' I wish he had 
been there to see me,' she thought ; ' it is nice to 
think there are little ways in which I was not alto- 
gether unworthy. I should soon learn w^hat they 
call the etiquette; and if it is only a matter of French 
and piano playing — Ah, how silly I am ! I know 
quite well those are not the things which make a 
lady ! And why on earth should I want to be a 
lady? I have thrown in my lot with Aunt Emma 
and with my poor suffering Alick. To be a lady 
would bring me no nearer to tliem! 

Nevertheless Nannie, having a good deal of 
time on her hands, made Mrs. Mustard's acquaint- 
ance. 



174 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 



CHAPTEE IV 



Charles Street/ said Vincent to himself; 'they 
have moved then. Where, I wonder, is Charles 
Street ? ' It was a fortnight since Alick had given 
him the message for Nannie. Vincent had taken a 
fortnight to consider if he would do well in under- 
taking the commission, in breaking the long years' 
silence. A few communications had passed between 
him and Nannie during the first month or so of her 
life in London. He had insisted, because John was 
away and the girl had no protectors except the two 
silly women to whom she was guardian angel. But 
as soon as everything was arranged, and she had 
dropped into her place, Nannie had written no 
more, nor had Vincent pressed her to continue the 
correspondence against her will. Now, however, after 
two years and nearly a half, at Alick's wish, and 
with a really friendly, though at times a consuming, 
anxiety to know how the strange household was 
getting on, Vincent decided that he did well to go. 

' Perhaps,' he said cynically to himself, ' I shall 
find upon seeing her that I have got over it. Two 
years is a very long time, and Victoria is beautiful ; 
and would, I feel no doubt, make a very nice 
and a very trustworthy wife, and my mother would 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 175 

be pleased. I will go and see if Nannie is, of a 
truth, all that my memory represents her ; if she is 
not — come, I will do my very best to fall in love 
with Victoria I Quancl on 71a 2^3 ce quon aime, il 
faut aimer ce qyJon a,' he said, still cynical, and 
weary of long restlessness and discontent. 

He found Charles Street — respectable but dingy, 
and on the north side of the Marylebone Lane. It 
was not the sort of house he had expected, and he 
was surprised too by the aspect of the woman who 
opened the door, and who, when asked for Miss 
Eandle, murmured something about the second storey, 
and called some one else. But Nannie had ' gone to 
business,' and there was none of her family at 'ome 
except the youngest, which was being minded till 
his mother's return. Vincent was surprised again ; 
he had surely understood that Mrs. Bryant had 
allowed her niece no business ! But he had made 
up his mind to seeing dear Nannie to-day, and to be 
baulked was entirely out of the question. He got 
the address and then drove away in a hansom, 
travelhng a long distance in the direction of civilisa- 
tion and fashion, till he had reached a shop — small, 
elegant, probably very expensive — a gentleman's 
shop for gloves, ties, and such like. ' What, I 
wonder, does Nannie do here ? ' thought Vincent, 
and entered, feeling like one walking in a dream. 
And the cynical mood fell off from his spirit 



176 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

like any other artificiality in the presence of truth. 
It is a kind of defensive armour we put on to baffle 
certain spiritual adversaries, which are only half 
visible to ourselves and generally wholly unper- 
ceived by the wondering crowd. ' I must have 
forgotten Nannie after two years/ Vincent had said 
to himself, ' and it were convenient that I should 
inarry Victoria Leslie. And is not Nannie a 
woman ? After two years she will no doubt have 
forgotten me ; and very probably she has, after 
two years, forgotten Alick as well.' He shrugged 
his shoulders and spoke bitterly, but he did not 
believe one word he was saying. It was defensive 
armour against thoughts which he feared. For 
Nannie's action with regard to her hapless cousin, 
Vincent had never approved, and he had to-day 
no doubt that, if she loved Alick no more, she 
would do well in cutting her trammels. Nannie was 
of worth far greater than Alick ; sacrificed to him 
she must not be ; unless in the one case of her own 
imperative desire. And there was a contingency 
which Vincent allowed no voice at present, but 
knew as possible, — that Nannie, weary indeed of 
Alick, and longing to escape from her self-imposed 
fetters, should be crying out for the love of her 
old lover, whom she had loved first, whose side 
she should never have quitted. Ah ! he would 
take her then, and with unspeakable joy ; take her 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 177 

too without tormentings of self-blame, or hesitation 
and questionings of right and wrong. But disloyalty 
of no sort came natural to Vincent ; and to take 
Xannie thus, with the haunting recollection of those 
suffering, trusting eyes of the man whom after all 
she had deceived, nay, of the man whom he had 
deceived himself, in accepting the commission with- 
out warning or protest — would it not be dis- 
loyalty ? justifiable indeed, but disloyalty still ? He 
strengthened himself in the cynical mood. 

But in Nannie's dear presence no unreality 
had power over her lover's spirit ; the cynical 
armour dropped off of itself as he crossed the 
threshold within which she was, and heard already 
the soft, familiar tones of Nannie's beloved voice. 
All sense of strangeness in place or time of 
meeting, all memory of the two years' severance, 
all recollection that she had cut herself off from 
him, all distrust of her, or belief in his own fickle- 
ness, vanished Hke a dream. He was back at 
Everwell, on the wild shore where the sunlit waves 
plashed quiet music ; in the glen with the moonUght 
changing familiar boulder -stones and moss-grown 
tree stumps into friendly goblins of the uncouth 
sohtude. He was back to the freedom and the 
delight and the poetry of their early love. He was 
in her presence ; a moment more and her sweet 
eyes would have gladdened at his coming ; her 
VOL. Ill 51 



178 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

arms would be round his neck ; she would be 
pressed to his heart, and he would hear the tender 
sigh of her great happiness. 

Two customers were in the shop, and behind the 
counter was a single young lady serving them. She 
was very beautiful ; that could be plainly seen in 
the eyes of the gentlemen, whose purchases were 
not, perhaps, very necessary ones. Could it possibly 
be Nannie ? Could the long-legged little girl of 
the blue petticoat and the sun -bonnet have ex- 
panded into this magnificent young queen, rustling 
about in black silk, with a spray of flowers at her 
throat, and piles of elaborate hair crowning her 
shapely head according to the latest fashion ? It 
was undoubtedly Nannie; under the glove -like 
bodice was the graceful form which had adorned the 
simple frocks of her early girlhood ; and the face 
was the same fair, sunny face, with its purity of 
line and faultless proportion, lighted by thoughtful 
eyes and softened by the smiling of tender lips, 
which latter had now, however, a well-marked pinch 
of sadness. 

' Not now.' Her soundless whisper to him was 
imperious, and she did not raise her eyes. She 
went on attending to her customers without change 
of manner, and presently she asked aloud in her 
usual tone, ' What can I show you, sir ? ' Yet 
Vincent knew that no lightning flash could have 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 179 

been swifter than her recognition. Perhaps ever 
since she had sold gloves and neckties for Mr. 
Egerton she had been daily expecting that her lover 
might chance some day to come ! 

It seemed to him that his agitation must betray 
him, and, what were worse, betray Nannie also to 
the strangers. He selected a pair of gloves at 
random and began putting them on, as if to account 
for his presence. He heard as in a dream a few 
questions and answers around him^ a chink of 
money, the departure of the two customers, ob- 
viously gentlemen ; the entry of three more, flown 
with good spirits and self-satisfaction and youthful 
insolence. She served these also, undisturbed, it 
seemed, by their stare. 

It was Nannie in a quite new light ; a shop-girl 
and a recognised beauty ; yet, for all this, still the 
same unspeakably sweet Nannie, of the soft voice, 
and the starry eyes, and the delicate, not-to-be- 
forgotten smile. And Vincent knew that she was 
the one woman in the world for him. 

The moment they were alone she turned to 
him, wan and anxious now under her finery. 
' There — there is nothing wrong, is there ? ' ques- 
tioned Nannie. ' You have not come to tell me 
anything bad about Alick ? ' That was it ! every 
day, every hour, she lived in a state of apprehen- 
sion, a dread of hearing of some new tragedy ! 



i8o MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

Once reassured on this point, N'annie sent her 
visitor away, bidding him to come and see her at 
her home, where they could speak to each other un- 
disturbed. So that evening Vincent rang again at 
the door of the shabby house in Charles Street, 
and Nannie opened it herself and brought him in. 
Mrs. Leach was out ; Polly and Jimmy were wash- 
ing the tea -cups in an inner room, and Nannie 
hushed the four -year -old youngest child on her 
knee as she talked. Her hair was twisted now 
in its old simple knot, she wore a rough linen 
apron, and her sleeves were pushed half way up 
her arm. 

* I understand you better now, Nannie,' said 
Vincent, aimlessly enough ; ' this morning I felt 
quite afraid of you.' 

She coloured and answered bitterly, feeling as 
if the gulf between them had somehow widened, 
' I am obliged to dress like that ! I have to 
call every morning at a hairdresser and have my 
hair done. If I am pale, they touch me up with 
rouge.' 

' I see. You are a decoy duck/ said Vincent, 
bitterly, in his turn. 

' Yes. The advertisement said " a young lady of 
good appearance." ' Nannie spoke defiantly, with 
tears not far from her voice. 

' And why did you take that situation, Nannie ? 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD i8i 

' Because it is an honest one/ she flashed out, 
' with kind people. It is supposed I can sell gloves 
better than an ugly woman, and so I am better paid. 
That is why I took the situation ! ' Vincent was 
silent ; he did not like it. 

' Oh, do you think it is wrong ? ' cried Nannie, 
piteously. ' I know Alick would think it wrong. 
He would say my looks were not given me to sell 1 
I have not dared to tell him quite all — about the 
rouge and all ! But it was so hard to get on for 
a while ; and it seems that most of the things a girl 
can do are so badly paid and^take so long to learn. 
We have put Lizzie to a dressmaker, but you know 
she earns nothing yet. And so many of the people 
didn't seem to like my appearance,' ended Nannie, 
cheering as she detected forgiveness, and looking 
down with a half smile. Then she blushed very 
deeply, and fixed her eyes on his with a dumb 
request that he would not notice her momentary 
relapse into the old playful way of leading for a 
compliment. Vincent understood her ; and he 
never again betrayed his repugnance to the neces- 
sary evil of her presence in Mr. Egerton's shop. 

' But, Nannie, I do not understand,' he said ; * I 
thought Mrs. Bryant ' 

' Yes, I will tell you all about Mrs. Bryant,' in- 
terrupted the girl, ' only I must hear about my poor 
Alick first. Oh, tell me,' she cried ; * you said you 



1 82 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

had a message from him for me ! You said there 
was nothing the matter. He is not worse ! You 
are sure ? ' Vincent was silent. He felt a great 
unwillingness to speak of her disastrous lover. 
A bright spot grew on Nannie's cheek as she 
watched him, and observed the dogged, reluctant 
air unusual on his face. She handed him some of 
Alick's letters. 

' I want you to read these/ she said, gently. He 
glanced at a few lines and put them down. 

' I know all this. He has showed me some of 
your letters to him/ said Vincent, turning from her 
and leaning his head on his hand. 

'I am so glad. You see,' said Nannie, with 
quivering lips, ' it is the greatest pleasure he has — 
these letters ; to know he may say what he likes to 
me — ' she paused, ' to think that 1 love him.' 

' But — if it is not true,' began Vincent, trying 
to speak coldly ; but his voice shook. 

' It is not for you to say that to me, sir,' said 
Nannie, very gently. There was a tenderness in 
her tone which made him look up. She was 
standing by him, the child in her arms, and she 
met his eye with the fearless, grieving, loving look 
of a saint. ' Yes, it is true,' said Nannie. ' I have 
chosen him for my love.' Yet she was too much in 
sympathy with her old lover not to show the com- 
passion which she felt. She laid her touch softly 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD i83 

on his shoulder, and Vincent turned away again, 
covering his face with his hand. He had under 
stood her. The thing he had half dreaded, wholly 
desired, was not to be. She was true to Alick. 
There was a silence. Then Vincent roused himself. 

' I saw him a fortnight ago, Nannie. Yes, he 
seemed to me well then ; cheerful, and interested 
in his painting. He sent some sketches to 
you, and showed me others — larger things which 
appeared to give him occupation and genuine 
pleasure.' 

' Were they good ? ' asked Nannie, with a touch 
of her old pride in Alick's paint-brush. 

'Well, they were too allegorical. There was 
one quite terrible picture of a drowned girl on the 
sea -shore in an atmosphere of horrors. It was 
gruesome, but strikingly and cleverly done. In 
that and in all he had put in familiar faces, his own 
again and again, and always maligned. And yours 
generally the central object. He gave me a very 
beautiful little sketch, Nannie, of you and your 
colts at Faverton.' 

' Ah, my poor Alick ! ' sighed Nannie. 

' In most of the pictures, you were the guardian 
angel, the saviour — a hope and a helper and a 
blessing.' 

' Thank you for telling me that,' said Nannie. 
Vincent had approached Alick's message, but could 



i84 MR. BRYAN fs MISTAKE 

not yet bring himself to give it. They talked on of 
his painting, interested in what they were saying, 
yet each with a background of deeper interest to 
their words and thoughts. 

' Might he have been a great painter ? Would 
that have saved him, sir ? ' 

' I don't know, Nannie. He might have played 
for too high stakes at that.' 

' And it would not have been so much use as 
the preaching.' 

' Do you think not ? ' 

' He thought the preaching the highest work. 
I could not bear to doubt it. I like to think his 
sorrow is only for this world ; that when he wakes 
in the next he will find his first thought was the 
right one ; that he was a true worker for God, and 
that his work was blessed.' 

' Ah ! A great deal of our work will look rather 
scamped on that occasion, I suspect. But I daresay 
it has had its use all the same. It doesn't do to 
be always looking back and wishing we had done 
something different. There was too much repent- 
ance in Alick's scheme of religion. We want now 
to get him to look forward ; to work or to anything 
else.' 

She was long silent, Vincent watching her with 
solicitude. Then I^annie spoke abruptly. ' There 
never was any one who remembered every little 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 185 

thing like Alick ! Only it has all turned dark for 
him ! Sometimes I wish he would get a great deal 
worse ; and forget, forget, forget — till he was like a 
little child again ! ' 

' Those cases are very painful, Nannie. I prefer 
to think my poor friend is still a human being. I 
don't fancy he would purchase relief from his suffer- 
ing by degradation to the level of a brute.' Nannie 
made no answer. And then somehow their eyes 
met. 

' Would you be mine, Nannie, if it came to 
that ? ' cried Vincent, suddenly, with the bitterness 
of suppressed passion. The girl looked at him for 
a moment, then she dropped her head on her hands 
and wept bitterly. 

* Nannie ! Nannie ! Forgive me ! ' said Viii- 
cent. 

* You would not wish to purchase relief from our 
suffering,' she sobbed, ' by his degradation to the 
level of a brute.' 

' No,' said Vincent, quietly. He held her hands 
for a few minutes in silence. Then in a low voice 
he gave Alick's message. ' He told me to tell you, 
Nannie, that you are as the sun to him ; breaking 
through the murk and shining across the sea.' 



1 86 MR. Bryant's mistake 



CHAPTEE VI 



It was not till the next day, when Vincent and 
Nannie had recovered their calm, that Mrs. Bryant's 
history was told. 

For more than a year and a half the clergyman's 
wife, her sister-in-law, and the young people had 
lived together quietly and not too uncomfortably in 
the manner already described, no cause of anxiety 
coming to the surface. Mr. Bryant appeared now 
and then, but increasing intervals elapsed between 
his visits, and it was evident to Nannie that his 
wife and he were drifting farther and farther apart. 
Each time he came he seemed more embarrassed 
by Nannie and Mrs. Leach, and each time he had 
less to say to Emma. And Mrs. Bryant, without 
meaning to be resentful, had a way of brooding 
over her wrongs, and referring reproachfully to them 
in a way exquisitely painful to her husband. 

' I could see,' said Nannie, ' it was torture to 
him to think how he had served her ; and I believe 
if she had been thoughtful for him, and had forgiven 
him and said no more, he would have been 
thankful to take her back, and to be oh ! so kind to 
her.' 

' Now, Nannie,' said Vincent, ' I must in- 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 187 

terrupt. You have come round to my view of 
Bryant ? ' 

' Yes/ said Nannie, slowly, ' I think I have.' 

' Then don't talk to me of Mrs. Bryant forgiving 
him.' 

' But she is his wife ! ' said simple Nannie. 

' Nonsense. She couldn't forgive it. A saint 
like you, Nannie, might ; though I doubt it. But 
never a flesh -and -blood mortal like Mrs. Bryant 
or me.' 

* Oh, I don't know ! When she thought how 
good he had been to her in other ways ; and how 
much of it was unintentional. And then, how 
wretched he is for having done it ! ' 

' Bryant ? He is most extraordinarily happy and 
prosperous.' 

* No, he is unhappy. I am sure of it. He hates 
his prosperity. I can't explain what I mean, but I 
have a feeling that so much of what happened was 
her fault. She might have helped him when the 
temptation came, and she didn't. She failed him 
when he wanted her most, and so he sank.' 

' A man shouldn't want holding up by his wife.' 
' I know you never would. But I have seen 
some men who weren't so very strong. Perhaps 
she chose her husband badly ; but having got him, 
oh ! she ousjht not to have failed liim ! ' Vincent 
smiled, for Nannie's remarks were characteristic. 



i88 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

It seemed that the first decided anxiety had been 
caused by the boy, Tom Leach, a clever, unsteady 
lad, left at Everwell in the employ of Mr. Soanes, 
the Tanswick fish-dealer. He had written in great 
alarm to Nannie, imploring her at once to send him 
money to replace certain peculations of which he had 
been guilty, before they should be discovered. 

' We were terribly frightened,' said Nannie, ' but 
we sent the money. I had just got my three 
months' allowance from John, and Aunt Emma 
helped.' 

' You were a goose, Nannie,' said Vincent, re- 
solving to see after Tom when he returned home. 

Mrs. Leach, continued the girl, had been troubled 
by this anxiety concerning her son. She said dole- 
fully that all her children got possessed as they 
grew up. Evidently it preyed upon her mind ; and 
one day, her pledge's term having run out, she felt 
a necessity for something cheering. Nannie couldn't 
help smiling at this part of the tale, but indeed it 
was very sad. After drinking more or less for a 
week, and becoming daily more terrifying to Lizzie 
and to Mrs. Bryant, Ann Leach had one night gone, 
rather muddled, to a patient in a critical condition ; 
had set the bed-curtains on fire, and frightened the 
invalid into fits. This catastrophe caused Mrs. 
Leach to re-sign the pledge on the following day, 
and for the rest of her life ; but it had a bad effect 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 189 

on her prestige as a nurse. Dr. Stilford was tired 
of his ]prot4g4e, for she had carried out to the full 
a grateful intention she had formed of teaching him, 
and Nannie's pleading had this time no effect, since 
(dreading the effect of her sweet eyes on his judg- 
ment) he had refused to see her. ' But almost all 
Aunt Ann's work had come through Dr. Stilford, 
and after that she got hardly any more, till we came 
here ; and now she doesn't go to such nice families,' 
sighed Nannie ; ' and he had seemed such a kind 
old gentleman ! ' 

' Does she keep her pledge now ?' asked Vincent. 
' Alick is anxious on that point.' 

' Very well indeed,' said Nannie, ' but you 
know, she is not a person who would ever do 
without some one to look after her ! And then,' 
the girl went on, ' Mr. Bryant had come. The very 
day Aunt Ann was like that. And he was so angry. 
He seemed to think she was ahvays tipsy. And 
she would talk to him. And you can fancy the 
extraordinary things she said, and the names she 
called him ! And how she went on about the 
things he had done ! But Lizzie and I and the 
maid were all listening, and no one could stop her. 
He said it was all a great pack of lies, and she 
should not stay another day in Mrs. Bryant's house. 
And Aunt Emma got into a nervous state, and 
sided one minute with one and the next minute 



190 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

with the other, and stirred them both up. Mr. 
Bryant was quite quiet, but he was very angry. I 
felt sorry for him, among so many women, who all 
seemed very ill bred to him ! Ladies and gentle- 
men never quarrel, do they ? I mean, not out 
loud. And Mrs. Bryant had gone back from being 
a lady since she had left him.' 

' Since she had been with you, I suppose,' said 
Vincent, in parenthesis. 

' He sent for me,' continued Nannie, ' and made 
me show him all the bills and tell him how Aunt 
Emma's money was going. He wasn't at all pleased, 
and called the Leaches, and me too, dishonest and 
paupers, and impostors and everything ; and the 
end of it was, that he turned them all out ! And 
he stayed three whole days, till Aunt Ann had gone 
and all the children. But the thing was, / had to 
go too ; for I knew she never would keep her pledge, 
and the children would run wild and perhaps starve, 
unless I was there to help. Of course I had to stay 
with Aunt Ann ! ' ended [N'annie, thinking Vincent 
looked rather doubtful. ' She is Alick's mother ! 
She belongs to me ! ' 

But the worst of this upheaval was that it had 
occasioned a more serious quarrel between the 
husband and wife than had yet occurred. They 
parted in anger, after cruel words on both sides, 
and with a half-meant resolution to meet no more. 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 191 

And so poor Emma, whose life had been one long- 
failure, was left alone ; every day to realise more 
fully her husband's great sin against her — the sin 
that no one else appreciated, the sin which to her 
was worse than the mere lying and treachery called 
by Vincent unpardonable. Edward had robbed her 
of her child ! For Nannie had been restored too 
late, at a time when she had entered into other 
relations and admitted other claims, not to be put 
aside by one of her faithful nature. ' She did her 
best for me,' said the disappointed woman, 'and never 
was anything but gentle and kind. But she didn't 
love me in her heart. She always thought of Sarah 
as her mother, and made believe still that my Mary 
was dead in Faverton churchyard. She wouldn't 
ask me a thing about her poor father, nor care to 
learn the truth of it all. She just set her face 
dead against it the moment she knew he was 
Sir Vincent's uncle, and when she saw what that 
dreadful man, Alick, had done. She said it would 
drive her wild unless she might believe she was 
Nannie Eandle still, and when I called her " Mary " 
it made her angry. I have never had my child from 
beginning to end. And I have been a very un- 
happy woman. And it is Edward's fault.' 

How much Mrs. Bryant suffered in those lonely 
days must for ever remain untold. She was one of 
the weak of this world whom none pity, and who 



192 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

are crushed out ruthlessly by the survival of 
the fittest. Day after day she sat alone and un- 
occupied. She was no reader. Needlework she 
had none, for her house and her dresses, which no 
one saw but herself, had no interest for her. She 
embroidered a laborious antimacassar sometimes, 
and had no satisfaction in it when it was done ; or 
she made a flannel petticoat very slowly, and asked 
her servant to find some poor person to give it to. 
She would sit quite still with her hands in her lap 
and remember the pleasant mornings she had spent 
in her London vicarage, making blinds or curtains, 
and listening for her husband's cheerful voice when 
he came in from his parish. One day she even 
took a cab and went to look at the outside of that 
house, which would know her again no more for 
ever. ' Oh, if I might sleep, and wake up there, 
and find it all a dream ; and that I had never been 
to that terrible place by the sea ; and he had died 
long ago, as I thought; and Mary was dead, and 
Edward was kind to me 1' Vain fancies. She 
returned to her solitary dwelling, bereaved of 
husband and child and every good. 

Mrs. Browne and her sister Miss Heath would 
come in and talk to her, and try to interest her in 
something, or to make her visit the poor. ' Oh 
no ! ' she said, ' I — I could not undertake it. I 
never was fond of parish work.' Nannie's friend, 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 193 

poor ugly Miss Mustard, would come and play 
on the hired piano, which still stood in the 
drawing-room, and wonder why the woman said 
nothing and had tears in her eyes. Emma was 
not specially fond of music ; but she missed, 
oh, how she missed, the scales and exercises and 
little easy tunes that had fallen from JSTannie's 
unpractised fingers, interrupted sometimes by a 
girlish laugh at their incompetence. She did not 
visit the child after the first time — one Sunday, 
when her visit had not been satisfactory ; for 
Nannie had seemed somehow usurped by Ann 
Leach's children, and had quite a common dress on 
and a rough apron, and did not look like a lady one 
bit ; which was disappointing after all the trouble 
Mrs. Bryant had taken with her manners, and the 
money she had spent in educating her a little ! 
Things were better when Nannie came to see her, 
especially after she had got the situation at Egerton's, 
and wore a stylish hat and her hair in the hair- 
dresser's splendid coils and plaits. She looked 
quite as well as Georgina when she was dressed so ! 
But Emma was always grumbling at the idea of 
Nannie's having any business at all ; and the girl 
wearied of the endless protests, and did not realise, 
perhaps because she did not sufficiently care, alas ! 
how the lonely woman wanted her. Later, when 
Vincent Leicester had heard the whole story, a bit 
VOL. Ill 52 



194 ^IR- BRYANTS MISTAKE 

from one person and a bit from another, more than 
]^annie had ever known, he discerned that the 
daughter's presence had been needed. But he 
never told Nannie. She had not understood, and 
besides, what could she have done ? As far as she 
knew she did her best ; spent little hours with Mrs. 
Bryant on Sundays and other days when her heart 
was elsewhere, and literally never gave twenty 
minutes to idling or amusing herself without a 
care for the many depending on her. She sat up 
late writing to Alick ; and she was awake half the 
night with the delicate baby ; and she arranged 
clothes for Polly, and coaxed Aunt Ann, and com- 
forted Lizzie, and played with Jimmy. And always 
there was the long day at Eger ton's, a good situation 
with kind and careful people, but which meant 
forced cheerfulness and a constant attention to 
propriety not natural to the lively girl. Nannie's 
day was laborious ; there was not much time in it 
for Mrs. Bryant. 

So Emma sat alone, deserted now by her child, 
as she had been deserted by her husband ; not 
noticing that the winter was over, and that the sun 
was shining, and that spring flowers were selling in 
the streets. Her servant, a lazy, contemptuous girl, 
did not observe that day by day her mistress sent 
her dinner away scarcely tasted, nor that she spoke 
less and less. Was the woman ill ? What matter ? 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 195 

She was of no use to anybody ; it couldn't matter 
if she even died. If she were ill, Emily would give 
notice. If she were very ill, Emily would abandon 
her month's wages and go off at once. She could 
get a place any day in five minutes, for she was a 
G.r.S. girl, and her Associate was bound to get her 
one. But for the present the woman was all right 
and the place was an easy one, which exactly suited 
Emily. 

There came a day when Mrs. Bryant, after a 
restless night and a short doze troubled by dreams 
towards morning, awoke with a pain in her 
back and a cough which frightened her. She con- 
sulted Emily about it, but the girl only laughed. 
A great longing for her husband seized poor Emma. 
He had always been so kind when she was ill ! 
He never said it was fancy. Oh, if only he were 
with her now ! It was at this moment that Emily 
flourished open the door with more ceremony than 
she accorded to Miss Mustard, or even to Mrs. 
Browne, and announced ' Sir Vincent Leicester.' 

Poor Emma, unhappy, unstrung, and iU, was 
quite overcome at the sight of a friend. She had 
often recalled Vincent's kindness in the early 
days of her trouble, when all the rest of the 
world had turned against her ; he seemed a 
positive messenger from heaven now. Shocked by 
the change in the unhappy woman, the visitor did 



196 . MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

not speak at once, but held her hand forgetfully ; 
and poor Mrs. Bryant, after a moment's ineffectual 
struggle, lost all self-control under the influence 
of sympathy and the sense that some one had come 
to her rescue. She burst into tears. 

Presently Vincent said earnestly, leaning to- 
wards her a little with his hand still on hers, 
' Mrs. Bryant, don't you know that I love Nannie 
better than anything else in the world? All 
her friends are my friends, and all her concerns are 
my concerns. And because I think you are her 
mother, if for no other reason, I hope you will let 
me be at your service now, in any way I can 
possibly be of use to you.' The eagerness with 
which the poor woman turned to him in response 
to this invitation was almost startling. Vincent 
stayed with her for a long time, and as she talked, 
her words often interrupted by her cough and by 
her tears, his indignation against Mr. Bryant reached 
boiling point. 

That evening the young man was engaged to 
dinner ; but early on the morrow he met Nannie 
and walked with her to her place of business. 

' I want you to do something for me,' he said. 
' Mrs. Leach is all right for a day or two, isn't she ? 
Leave her to her own devices and go and look after 
Mrs. Bryant.' Nannie did not answer, and he con- 
tinued, ' I went to see her, as you wished. She was 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 197 

glad of an old friend, and I got her to tell me a 
good deal. She is sick and lonely and horribly 
dull. Perhaps you are right, Xannie, and she would 
do better to shut her eyes to her husband's trans- 
gressions. I have a scheme in my head which may 
come to nothing, but which may as well be tried. 
I propose to go and see Bryant to-morrow and 
sound him. Till you hear from me in a day or 
two, will you take care of her ? She wants her 
daughter, Nannie,' said Vincent, gently. 

' Yes, I'll go,' said Nannie, and walked on with 
her head down for a minute or two. * It isn't certain, 
is it ? ' she asked, abruptly. He guessed her meaning. 

' No, there is no certainty,' replied Vincent. ' You 
are Nannie to me and to everybody, and always 
will be. Nevertheless ' 

' Wouldn't it make you hate me ? ' said the girl 
again, still without raising her eyes. 

'Nannie,' said Vincent, gravely and quietly, 
' nothing could make the smallest change in my 
feeling for you.' They walked on silently. 

' I will go for a day or two,' said Nannie, at last, 
' but I am quite sure I couldn't leave Aunt Ann for 
long, because she wants some one to take care of her, 
and I promised Alick, years ago,' she cried ; ' you 
don't know how many years ago. Before ever I 
saw you,' said Nannie, the thread of her thoughts 
not very apparent. 



198 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

' I see/ said Vincent, quietly. And then they 
parted for an indefinite time, without even saying 
good-bye. 



CHAPTEE VII 

Mrs. Bryant sat all the evening after Sir Vincent's 
visit, coughing and brooding over the things he had 
said to her. Emily was not attentive, but certainly 
more propitious than usual. The grandeur of the 
visitor had impressed her ; and he had, on going 
out, slipped a coin into her hand and had said, 
' Eetch the doctor for your mistress.' It was a wet 
evening, and Emily thought it needless to obey im- 
mediately, but she quite meant to do so in the morning. 
She spent hours in thinking of the tall young gentle- 
man. ' He's a Sir,' she said ; ' that's something awful 
swell ; and rich, or he'd never have tipped me for 
nothing. And my ! ain't he good looking ! Who'd 
ever have thought Mrs. Bryant, stupid, ugly, old 
thing, would have such a grand un to visit her ? ' 
But in the morning it was raining still, and 
Emily did not fancy spoiling her new boots to find 
Dr. Stilford. And Mrs. Bryant had come down 
early to breakfast, and declared she was quite well, 
and was going a little trip by train. 

Emma had made up her mind. For some time now 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 199 

the idea had been floating in her brain ; Vincent 
had precipitated it ; feverishness determined her to 
act upon it at once. She would return to her 
husband. ' I can't bear it any longer/ she said : 
' I'll go and ask him to forgive me, and I'll tell 
him I'll forgive him everything, and I'll give up 
my poor Mary and go back and live with him like 
I used.' 

She wished the very train bearing her to hun 
would hasten, no doubt of her welcome crossing her 
mind as she journeyed along. 

' You have a bad cold, madam,' said a sympathis- 
ing lady in the compartment with her. 

' Only fit for a hospital, I should say,' added 
another, who was irritated by her suffering air, and 
who had a child in charge. ' I hope it is nothing 
infectious.' 

Mrs. Bryant made answer to neither. Her 
eyes were glazed and wandering, and the ladies 
began to wonder if she were not half delirious : but 
in point of fact she was merely absorbed in her 
own thoughts. She was counting the hours till she 
could reach her home — to be with dear Ned, like she 
used. She scarcely remembered Georgina ; that it 
were a new house and a new place she did not care. 
It was not EverweU ; at least that was a comfort. 
Yet she thought of Everwell not without tenderness. 
Sir Vincent lived there ; Sir Vincent was alwavs 



200 MR. BRYA NTS MIS TA KE 

kind. Sir Vincent had advised her to be reconciled 
to her husband. 

Late in the afternoon a fly drove up to Canon 
Bryant's house in the Cathedral city, and a weary 
woman, with flushed cheek and trembling hand, and 
a bright light of hope in her eye, got down, and 
gave a handful of uncounted silver to the driver, 
and toiled up the steps, and knocked at the 
door. 

' It's a comfort to have got away from low people 
at last,' she thought, remembering with a vividness 
not indicative of health Ann Leach's two bare 
rooms and Nannie's simple country ways. 

A very smart buttons opened the door and sur- 
veyed the visitor with surprise. But for once Mrs. 
Bryant was authoritative. The little boy was not 
clever, and had only been a week in the place. The 
lady's name suggested a relative of his master's, 
and he took her to the drawing-room. 

There was an air of comfort, luxury, and fashion 
about the house, which somehow puzzled Mrs. 
Bryant, and gave her for a moment the feeling that 
she had come to the wrong place. On the stair 
was a pile carpet ; choice ferns in pottery vases 
adorned the lobby window - seats ; ebony brackets 
with china, the walls ; Emma's solid old-fashioned 
furniture had disappeared. The house was pretty ; 
but Mrs. Bryant was not the person to notice that. 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 201 

She felt it warm and comfortable, but strange. 
Where was her husband ? 

At the piano Georgina was singing to her lover. 
' I say, look here/ said Captain Astley, interrupting, 
and calling her attention to the curious-looking woman 
advancing with a manner at once hesitating and 
excited. Georgina was handsome as ever, in her 
dark, close-fitting morning -dress with a bright 
coloured waistcoat. She looked round and grasped 
the situation ; then rose, without any appearance 
of hurry, making a little grimace of half-amused 
vexation. 

' Would you step this way?' said the stepdaughter, 
with very commendable civility ; * my father is 
away with the Bishop.' She got the woman safe 
out of the drawing-room, but paused to say dis- 
tinctly, 'Don't go, please, Fred, till I return. I 
may want you.' 

' Georgie,' said Mrs. Bryant, trembling, ' you 
don't mean to tell me your pa is not at home ? ' 
They were in the dining-room by this time, and 
Georsfina had been ci\Tl lons^ enouo'h. 

' He is from home for several days, I am thankful 
to say. He will be spared this intolerable annoy- 
ance. How dare you come here ? ' 

For a moment Emma thought herself fainting. 
' Oh, my dear,' she replied, tremulously, ' don't speak 
to me so. Fm not very well and I can't stand it. 



202 MR. BRYAXT S MISTAKE 

You aren't going to keep me from my husband, 
Georgie, are you ? My dear, do please go and tell 
him I want him.' 

' Do you suppose / tell lies ? ' sneered Georgina ; 
' my father is not in the town at all, and will 
not be home for several days. You need not 
attempt to wait here. You must go away at 
once.' 

' Oh, my dear — my dear ' 

* I must request, Mrs. Bryant, you will not make 
a scene. If you don't go away quietly at once, I 
shall ask Captain Astley to show you the door. It 
is against my father's wish that you intrude here, 
and you know it. I won't haA'e you in my house,' 
said the young lady. 

' It ain't your house ! ' cried Mrs. Bryant, start- 
ing up with sudden passion. 

' Shall I caU Captain Astley ? ' asked the girl, 
cahnly. She was a little frightened, however, 
by the paUor which overspread the unfortunate 
Emma's countenance, as her sudden anger faded. 
' You must go back to London,' or you can stay 
in a hotel, if you choose ; you shall not stay here, 
Mrs. Bryant. You can't see papa to-night, no 
matter how important your business is ; not even if 
Nannie has run off again with Sir Vincent,' said the 
young lady. 

Mrs. Bryant sank back in her chair quite cowed, 



SOJtE ARM. MAMMJEJDr, SOME AME DEAD jbj 





204 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

coat. Mrs. Bryant's clothes were light and unsuit- 
able to rain ; she wore thin shoes, having anticipated 
no walking. It did not occur to Georgina to lend 
the woman a wrap. She did think of some tea, but 
by this time it was too late to set about getting it. 
When Mrs. Bryant made the request, the step- 
daughter bestowed just the proverbial cup of cold 
water. Then they started through the drenching 
drizzle, and Georgina hurried, because she disliked 
the damp, and dreaded encounters with acquaint- 
ances. Mrs. Bryant only spoke once, for her breath 
was short and she had enough to do to keep up 
at all. 

' That is not true what you said of Nannie, my 
dear,' she gasped, tremulously. 

Georgina laughed. ' I suppose then Sir Vincent 
is tired of his toy ? ' she said, with her sneer. Miss 
Bryant paid for a second-class ticket, and put her 
stepmother into a carriage by herself, and waited 
till the train had fairly started. Then she called a 
fly and drove home. 

'Papa ought to be satisfied when he hears I 
walked with her in the rain. I can say she insisted 
upon returning. What a blessing he was out. The 
woman simply must keep away till my wedding is 
over. After that I care for nothing. I hope Fred 
didn't make out who she was.' 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 205 



CHAPTEE VIII 

Geokgina had said her father would be absent for 
several days. That, as she knew, meant till to- 
morrow. He returned about luncheon time ; tired, 
in arrears with his work, and rather bored by the 
Bishop. Georgina thought the moment inopportune 
for mentioning Mrs. Bryant's visit. 

Since her engagement, Georgina had been out of 
favour. The Canon sighed often over liis magnifi- 
cent daughter. She was prodigiously admired, 
what is commonly caUed ' a great favourite.' Did 
any one love her ? He had no idea that she 
could be brutal ; but was she amiable ? upright ? 
good, and unselfish, and faithful ? He dared not 
answer these questions. He told himself she had 
turned out as he had wished, a thorough lady. 
Was she not a lady ? Georgina had a style and 
manner she could never have acquired in the homely 
parsonage ; yet often her father bitterly regretted 
that he had sent his daughter long ago to live with 
the Baroness. ' It was the beginning of it all,' 
he said ; ' it left Emma alone, and it spoiled the 
child.' 

But it was only in good spirits that Mr. Bryant 
blamed circumstances for his fall ; and good spirits 



2o6 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

were now the rarest of his visitants. As his 
prosperity increased — and he w^as wonderfully pros- 
perous and popular, his own church and the 
cathedral crowded when he preached, his house 
thronged from morning till night, his clerical 
brethren reverential and affectionate — it was noticed 
that he grew personally sadder and sadder. ' II y a 
un page effrayant dans le livre des destinies humaines; 
on y lit en titre, les d^sirs accomplis.' 

' It is his wife,' so the whisper ran ; ' poor man, 
he made an unfortunate marriage, and has been 
obliged to separate from his wife. It weighs upon 
him. The Bishop knows all about it. Mr. Bryant 
was not to blame in the smallest degree. One can 
see on his beautiful, refined face the marks of great 
suffering.' Of course the speaker was a lady. 
Among his female flock, Mr. Bryant had almost the 
prestige of a widower ; was believed to be such by 
a good many, and wished un wedded by many more. 

' Georgie,' said her father, calling her to him, 
' my dear child, let me have a few grave words with 
you. You are still resolved to marry this man ?' 

' Yes, papa.' 

' Break it off, Georgina. Break it off while there 
is still time. You do not love him ; you do not 
respect him. You will not be happy as his wife.' 

' I intend to marry him, papa.' 

' My dearest child, listen to me. I have heard 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 207 

more about him since I have been away. He is 
unworthy of you. Merely from a worldly point of 
view ' 

'From a worldly point of ^dew,' interrupted 
Georgina, ' he is all right, and I don't intend to 
look farther. I never met the man yet whose 
merit would bear scrutiny. Some people,' said 
Georgina, looking at her father, * profess a great 
deal, but, to quote the lesson you read in church 
last Sunday, " in time of temptation they fall 
away." To put it plainly, they are hypocrites. 
Have not you known some people like that ?' Mr. 
Bryant's look of sadness deepened. Presently he 
returned to the charge. 

' There is danger to yourself, Georgina, in 
marrying a man like Astley.' 

'When I am in danger, papa, I will come to 
you for advice. At any rate there has never been 
any hypocrisy about you. You are eminently 
fitted to teach by precept and by example.' 

' God forbid, Georgina, that you should imitate 
me. But I know a right -fearing man when I see 
him. I repeat, Astley is one to whom I cannot 
give you without the keenest regret. My demands 
of moral excellence are not exorbitant, my child. 
Take an instance. I would have given you to Yin- 
cent Leicester ; he professes little, but he has pro- 
gressed on the upward path since I knew him first, 



208 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

five or seven years ago. Can Captain Astley's 
friends say that of him ? There is no standing still 
in the journey of life, Georgina. It is upwards or 
downwards with all of us. Are you going to link 
yourself irrevocably to a man travelling down ? ' 

' Five or seven years/ said Georgina, reflecting ; 
'it is a long time. Have you gone up or down 
yourself, papa, in five years ? ' 

' It is a question for us each to ask ourselves, 
Georgina, and the answer may be known to none 
of our fellow-men. My dear,' he said, rising, and 
looking at her steadily, ' there may be in my silent 
answer to that searching question, that which 
deprives me of my full right to command or to 
reprove you. Take the more heed to yourself, 
Georgina, and believe me when I say I have no 
stronger wish than that my child may be spared 
the intolerable regrets which I have had to feel.' 

' In consequence of a foolish marriage, papa ? ' 
But she desired no unseemly disclosures, and hastily 
changed her tone, putting her siren face up for a 
kiss. ' Papa dear, you see I know Fred better than 
you do, and indeed he is not what he is painted. 
And how could I have Vincent Leicester when 
he wouldn't have me ? But, papa, look out of 
the window and see who is coming up the steps ? 
Vincent Leicester himself! Must we suppose he 
has come to interfere between me and Fred !' said 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 209 

Georgina, gaily ; and away she ran to change her 
dress for a still prettier one, saying to herself, ' I 
have lost my opportunity for telling papa that the 
woman was here.' 

But Vincent, when he had knocked at the 
door, did not ask for the fascinating Miss, Br}'- 
ant at alL He was shown into the Canon's 
library and received with great still'ness, for Mr. 
Bryant remembered that their parting had not been 
exactly pleasant; and Vincent was embarrassed by 
liis reception no less than by his errand Canon 
Bryant, for over two years the Bishop's intimate 
friend and constant companion, was an influential 
personage here in the Cathedral city ; the whole 
room somehow bespoke his importance, and the 
young man from the wild coast of a less civilised 
county, who made no pretension to be spiritual, and 
liad blundered in some of his social experiments, 
would have seemed to the Bishop, for instance, 
totally insignificant in comparison. 

' May I ask your business, Sir Vincent V said 
Canon Brj-ant, calmly, after reasonable patience ; 
* we expect friends to dinner, and my time, I regret 
to say, is much occupied.* 

*I wished to tell you,' said Vincent, abruptly, 
' that I have been in to\vn this week ; and I saw 
Xannie Eandle and Mrs. Bryant.' 

* Indeed V Mr. Bryant raised his eyebrows with- 

voL. m 53 



210 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

out striking sign of emotion. Still Vincent fancied 
a little tightening of the pale lips; and he was 
silent for a space, looking at the handsome careworn 
face, old now for its years, and remembering Nannie's 
words, ' He is unhappy ; he hates his prosperity.' 

' Nannie is not living with Mrs. Bryant now,' 
continued Vincent, awkwardly ; ' I suppose it was 
unavoidable, but your wife misses her.' 

The clergyman gave a slight shrug to his 
shoulders. * Well, you know,' he said, with a trifle 
greater warmth, ' I was excessively sorry to deprive 
Mrs. Bryant of her niece's company ; I did my best 
to retain Miss Eandle. But it was impossible to 
allow Ann Leach to remain in the house. She was 
not merely living on my wife in an altogether un- 
justifiable way, but was reducing her to positive terror.' 

' Certainly.' Vincent was a bad hand at beating 
about the bush. Moreover, he had little tenderness 
for Mr. Bryant's feelings. He resolved to speak 
out and submit to the consequences. ' Mrs. Bryant 
is left alone,' he said, with unintentional sternness, 
'to brood over the past and to dread the solitary 
future. She appeared to me to be ill, and she is 
certainly — ' he could think of no other word, 
and after a short hesitation said, ' neglected.' The 
colour faded slowly from the clergyman's worn face, 
leaving it gray and ashen ; his air of resentment 
failed ; he had apparently ceased to care if his mask 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 211 

dropped a little. A struggle was going on in j\Ir. 
Bryant's mind, and he was on the verge of capitula- 
tion. For in Vincent's already strong suspicions of 
his honesty he saw chance of an alliance potent to 
force him out of the dishonourable and detested 
position in which the confidence of all his remaining 
friends conspired to entrench him. A very small 
amount of confession would be enough for Vincent. 
Mr. Bryant felt instinctively that a cry for help 
would meet with response. 

' Did you come here to reproach me, Sir Vincent?' 
asked the Canon at last, in melancholy accents of 
profound dejection. 

' I came to tell you,' said Vincent, ' that Mrs. 
Bryant spoke frankly to me. She explained the 
circumstances which had induced her to leave you ; 
by her own wish, she asserted ; and evidently by 
yours.' He paused, as if expecting contradiction ; 
then went on quietly, ' I may be wrong ; it may be 
impertinent in me to interfere; but I believe Mrs. 
Bryant is ready to forget the entire past if you 
will give her a single call.' 

The blood rushed over the clergyman's face. 
' Ah, my God !' he exclaimed, in a low voice. 

It was done now. There was no more to be 
said. Vincent bowed and was withdrawing, feeling 
somehow more kindly to his old friend than when 
he had entered. 



2 1 2 MR. BR YANT S MISTAKE 

He was detained by the entry of the smart little 
buttons with a telegram. Canon Bryant opened it 
listlessly, with a mute request to his visitor to delay 
his departure for a moment. 

The pink paper fell from the clergyman's hand, 
and a cry of horror broke from his lips. ' What 
does it mean ?' he asked, hoarsely. Vincent picked 
up the telegram and read it. It was from the 
station-master of Mallton, a small town half way 
between X and the metropolis. 

'Emma Bryant from London is here danger- 
ously ill. If a relation, come at once, or wire 
reply.' The two men stared at each other inquir- 
ingly. 

' Where did you see her V gasped Mr. Bryant. 

' In her own house. In London.' 

' What does this mean then ? ' 

' I have no idea. Unless,' said Vincent, ' she 
was on her way to you.' 

' Ah, my God ! Let us go at once !' said the 
Canon, rising ; and putting his arm through 
Vincent's, he leaned upon him heavily. ' You said 
she was ill ? ' 

' She had a cold. She was not so ill as this 
seems to imply. It must be some one else.' 

' Perhaps so. But we will go at once.' 

' Upon reflection I am convinced it cannot be 
Mrs. Bryant. Nannie went to her yesterday,' said 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 213 

Vincent, with serene confidence that Nannie was a 
perfect guardian. 

' I must go at once. There is time to catch this 
train if we hurry.' He did not invite Vincent to 
accompany him, but the arrangement was gainsaid 
by neither. Mr. Bryant recovered his authoritative 
air of an important church dignitary ; but he did 
not lose the pallor and rigidity betokening a 
weakness to which the support of a friend's stout 
arm was welcome. Georgina had to entertain the 
guests alone ; her father merely told her that he 
was summoned away, without saying by whom or 
whither. 



CHAPTEE IX 

They reached Mallton after a silent journey. Mr. 
Bryant was cold and imapproachable ; yet, it seemed, 
glad of Vincent's company. Of what was passing 
in his mind the latter had no idea, but the young 
man was hopeful on poor Emma's behalf. Whether 
the sick traveller at Mallton were she or not, the 
adventure would surely lead to reconciliation. 

It was Vincent who addressed the station-master 
when Canon Bryant and he alighted. 

The lady had been travelling by herself in a 
second-class carriage of the up-train last night, so 



214 MR, BRYANT S MISTAKE 

the man explained, but she had been discovered and 
taken out at this station, apparently dying. She 
was in his house and had every attention. An 
address in London had been found on her, and a 
telegram sent to it. Canon Bryant had not been 
alluded to till this afternoon. A young lady had 
come from London, and was with her now. 

' You are sure it was the up-train ? ' said Vin- 
cent, puzzled. 

' Yes, sir.' Then in a low voice, ' The young 
lady, sir, says that she's the Canon's wife.' 

' Oh !' Vincent turned to Mr. Bryant, who had 
stood silent all this time as if turned to stone. ' I 
fear your surmises were correct. Will you go 
up ?' 

They moved on ; the station-master talking of 
course about a doctor, lungs, and the heart, drenched 
clothes and fever. 

' Yes, yes, we'll hear all that another time,' said 
Vincent. Then the station-master's wife appeared 
and wanted to talk too. 

' Poor dear, she's been very bad all this afternoon, 
light-headed, and since five o'clock ' 

' Let her husband go to her,' said Vincent, 
pushing the strangers aside. Then they mounted a 
narrow stair to a dark passage ; and a train at this 
moment rattled through the station and shook the 
house like an earthquake. 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 215 

'Yes,' said the woman, ' the noise is very bad ; 
shocking on the nerves.' 

And now a door opened and Nannie came out. 
Vincent had guessed her to be the young lady. 

* Wait a moment,' she said, closing the door after 
her and holding the handle. She fixed her eyes on 
Mr. Bryant. ' You are too late,' she said, gravely. 
Still not a word from the clergyman. He stared at 
the girl, as if unable to think or to frame a word. 

' She is not dead, I^annie ?' said Vincent, in- 
expressibly shocked. 

' She died five minutes ago. She has been 
dying since six o'clock.' 

Mr. Bryant opened the door silently and groped 
his way forward, as if blind. The others watched 
him with their hands clasped. Vincent got a 
glimpse of a white, peaceful face on a child's bed. 
Then Mr. Bryant shut the door and locked it. 

' Heaven help him ! ' exclaimed Vincent, under 
his breath. 



CHAPTEE X 

' Hadn't we better send for the doctor, sir ? ' asked 
the station-master's wife, frightened. Then she 
turned angi'ily to Nannie. ' Miss, you should have 
called me if she was took worse. When I went up 



2i6 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

last you said she was just the same. I am sure, 
sir, I'd never have left the young lady alone to see 
her die if I had known ; but I'd gone to lie down 
for a bit ' 

' Have you some one you can send for a doctor ? ' 
said Vincent. 

He and Nannie sat together on the stair, not 
knowing where to go in this strange house. 

' Were you frightened, ]N"annie ? ' he asked, ten- 
derly. 

' No ; she died very quietly. Death is not 
terrible, I think.' 

' The struggle to live is terrible sometimes.' 

' Not in her case. I did not call the woman. 
I thought a stranger would be no use and might 
worry her.' 

' Was she conscious ? ' 

'No. She kept on asking for Mr. Bryant, but 
I don't think she would have known him if he had 
been there.' 

' Did she know you ? ' 

'When I came. Not lately.' 

' But, Nannie, what does it all mean ? Tell me 
all you know.' 

They spoke in whispers, fearing Mr. Bryant 
might hear their voices. Nannie had gone, according 
to her promise, to Mrs. Bryant's house on Tuesday 
evening — yesterday — but had found her aunt was 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 217 

out. Emily admitted that she had a cold. She did 
not know where her mistress had gone, but had 
understood she would not return for a day or two. 
Nannie had thought it ' queer/ and had even been to 
Mrs. Browne for advice. That lady suggested that 
Mrs. Bryant might have gone to her husband. 

' And after what you had told me,' said Nannie, 
' I saw at once it must be so.' 

* But it was not,' interrupted Vincent. * I have 

been at X , at Bryant's house, and he said 

nothing about it. You don't mean to suggest, 
Nannie, that he had seen her ! ' exclaimed Vincent, 
out of his profound distrust of the clergyman. 

* She had been there, I think, but I don't know 
if she had seen him. You see, she couldn't answer 
questions. But she said several times, " Georgie 
made me walk so fast, it set my heart beating," 
" Georgie shouldn't have taken me in the rain when 
I had such a cold." Georgie means Miss Bryant, 
doesn't it ? She had seen Miss Bryant, I am sure.' 
They were both silent, thinking of Georgina. 'I 
fear she must have been rather unthinking,' said 
Nannie, apologetically. 

' Heartless, you mean,' replied Vincent. Nannie 
glanced at him. No, he could never have loved 
Georgina very much, to speak of her quite in that 
tone. Nannie went on to tell how in the morning, 
no tidings having come, she had gone to business as 



2i8 MR. Bryant's mistake 

usual, leaving directions that any news was to be 
sent to her at once. Emily, however, had not 
brought the telegram as soon as it had arrived. ' I 
did not get here till five,' said Nannie, ' though I 
was as quick as I could be. She just knew me, I 
think, and smiled, and she talked for some time. 
But I couldn't make out what she said much. She 
said how kind you had been to her, sir. And she 
asked again and again for her husband, and seemed 
troubled at not seeing him. But there was nothing 
connected, and after about eight or so, she scarcely 
spoke at all. I saw she was dying. And I was 
so thankful to be with her ! ' 

' You are very brave, Nannie,' said Vincent. 

' I didn't expect you to come with Mr. Bryant,' 
whispered the girl ; ' I was oh so glad to see you ! ' 

It was a strange, dreary episode altogether : the 
little dark house with the trains rattling above it, 
all so unfamiliar and unsuitable ; the strange people 
fairly sympathising, but evidently oppressed and 
worried ; the deserted, lonely woman, dying without 
knowing where she was or what had happened, 
expecting her husband, and not understanding his 
absence in this supreme moment, barely recognising 
the child for whom she had agonised ; her sorrowful 
life extinguished suddenly, and almost by accident, 
without one touch of happy fortune. And she had 
been a beautiful girl once, joyous and promising as 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 219 

the morning ! Betrayed now and deserted ; weak- 
ened in mind and body, till even she herself was 
unable to estimate her suffering; after she had 
borne with the dumb anguish of a stricken animal, 
the loss of her reputation, her home, her husband, 
and her child — all the grievous blows of Fate which 
she had deserved and understood so little — it had 
literally been the petty persecution of a thoughtless 
girl that had killed her. She had tried to explain 
her life's tragedy to the watchers by her bed, but 
all she could say was, ' Georgie dragged me so fast 
to the station, it made my heart beat. Georgie 
shouldn't have made me walk in the rain when I had 
such a heavy cold.' Vincent and Nannie had some 
dim comprehension of the poor thing's long sufferings ; 
yet by degrees their talk strayed away from her, as 
they spoke together in low tones, their hands clasped 
half unconsciously. 

' Is it wrong,' said Nannie, softly, ' to be glad and 
thankful that her poor eyes have closed ? She was 
so uncomfortable in this world ! ' 

' I had hoped,' said Vincent, ' that things were 
looking up for her ; and that she was to have her 
home and her husband again. I regret this meaning- 
less end before the experiment was even tried.' 

' Was he going to take her home ? That was 
your doing ! ' 

" No, only in so far that he let me see he wished 



220 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

it.' Vincent meditated, the apparent impotence of 
some people's wishes being very surprising to him. 
' Well, it miojht have been a failure/ he resumed 
presently, ' whatever is, is best, I suppose. Do you 
believe in that comfortable doctrine, Nannie V 

' Yes,' replied Nannie, gravely, ' because I believe 
in God.' 

They were on the platform now, waiting for the 
train, and having preferred the open air to the 
strange house. Nannie had elected to return at 
once to her home in London. Here her work was 
done, and she felt her presence would now be only 
embarrassing. 

' Don't go setting up an ideal of Christian 
resignation,' said Vincent ; ' there's a sort of " giving 
in " about that talk of submission to the will of 
Heaven that I cannot away with. In nine cases 
out of ten, the "will of Heaven" is simply the laziness 
or the weakness of man. There — Alick taught me 
that much, years ago.' 

* But if it is really the will of God ? ' suggested 
Nannie. 

' The tenth case ? Well, I suppose one can't 
vanquish that. But not even in that case, Nannie, 
shall you hear me say a manifest evil is a good. I 
shouldn't believe it if I did, and you'd never per- 
suade me such a belief was acceptable to the gods.' 
Nannie stood looking up at him gravely, like a child 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 221 

learning a lesson, and trying very hard to take it 
all in. Her meek, serious face amused him in a 
fashion. 

' You say Alick taught you ! ' exclaimed Nannie ; 
' I begin to see how little Alick and I know about 
things — even the things we know best.' 

' Not so very little, Nannie. And what you 
describe is every one's experience.' 

' But you used to say Alick was wrong in his 
" passion for reforming the world." Weren't those 
your very words once to me ?' 

' It is flattering to have one's very words re- 
membered, Nannie, but don't poison the flattery 
by a demand for consistency ! Eeforming the 
world seems a presumptuous sort of task, like 
doctoring without a diploma or a knowledge of 
your patient's diseases. I have no responsibility 
for another man's conscience. If he gets in my 
way, or hinders me from keeping my own doorstep 
clean, I kick him off it, that is aU. Were those 
my very words on the occasion you allude to ? ' 

' I think one may be responsible for other people 
sometimes,' said Nannie ; ' I think one might have 
to keep them on the doorstep ; I think one might 
even wish to do it. Were you laughing at me in 
talking like that?' she asked suddenly, looking up 
with her sunny smile. And Vincent smiled too as 
they waited and talked on. 



222 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

But after she was gone, Vincent stood long in 
the cold night air looking down the dim path of her 
departure. It had been a strange meeting. He 
had spoken cheerfully, but Nannie would have been 
surprised by the dejection which overtook him now 
in his solitude. ' She loves me still,' he said to 
himself, ' but not as I love her. It is not wonderful. 
But I wish she did. My God ! I wish she did.' 



CHAPTEK XI 

Vincent had shrugged his shoulders and said bitter 
things to Nannie of Canon Bryant, declaring that 
he had no further responsibility for another man's 
soiled conscience than to remove it and its owner 
from his doorstep. Nevertheless, when the girl had 
asked if he were going home at once, he had 
answered, ' I shall see the fellow through, I suppose,' 
not unkindly. Nannie, who was rather fond of Mr. 
Bryant, was glad to think he had a guardian in his 
grief. By this time she knew that her lover's action 
was generally pitched in a higher key than his 
words. 

While the young man and the girl were walking 
up and down the station platform at four in the 
morning, yawning and shivering, and heartily glad 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 223 

of each other's company, Mr. and Mrs. Bryant only 
vaguely remembered as the cause of their presence 
in this strange place at this strange hour — the clergy- 
man himself was alone with his dead, no longer 
acting or posing at all, but abandoned to the stab 
of bereavement and the stings of self-reproach. 
There was no one to see the white haggard face, 
the despairing eye fixed hopelessly on the dead 
woman who had called to him in her last agony, 
and had called in vain. He understood it all now. 
She had come to him with an instinctive cry for 
help in her fast oncoming weakness ; and his 
daughter, the beautiful Georgina for whom he had 
sacrificed his wife, had chased her away, cold, 
hungry, and wretched, with her mortal sickness 
already clutching at her life. His daughter had 
given the finishing blow ; yet he was not thinking 
so very much of Georgina. He was thinking far 
more of all he had done himself — was recalling 

o 

with exquisite suffering the romance of his early 
love for this unhappy woman, his own faithlessness 
to it ; the miserable compromises he had made 
between his love and his ambition; the long serving 
of two masters ; the crooked ways into which he had 
forced her, wounding her spirit ; the cowardice, 
treachery, and desertion by which he had broken 
her heart. And yet he had loved her all along ; 
he had loved no other woman. So that he had 



224 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

committed the very worst of sins ; he had sacrificed, 
he had been false and cruel to one he loved. And 
for what ? For a mean and a selfish lust for praise 
and reputation, and a seeming of something other 
than he was. He saw it all now ; he realised what 
he had done, and he knew that his hour of retribu- 
tion had come. 

Vincent Leicester was still lingering on the 
platform, watching the eastern windows of the 
dawn and thinking of i^annie, when the signals 
moved for the passage through the station of the 
Scotch express. He felt a languid interest in 
seeing the quick train go by, and remained where 
he was, half hidden in the gloom, and leaning 
against the wall of advertisements. Presently he 
saw Canon Bryant walk quickly from the station- 
master's private door on to the platform, almost to 
its edge, where he stood looking at the coming 
express. Then with an uncertain, hesitating step 
he moved back a little, his hands pressed to his 
brow and his head bent. 'What is he about, I 
wonder?' thought Vincent ; and joined him, putting 
his arm through the clergyman's and holding him 
like a vice till the train had clattered past them 
and had disappeared into the still unconquered 
darkness. 

Mr. Bryant had started at this unexpected ap- 
pearance, but offered no resistance to Vincent's 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 225 

intrusion and support. When the train had 
passed, Vincent dropped his arm and looked at 
him questioningly ; Mr. Bryant smiled bitterly. 

' It would soon crush one/ he said. 

' May I ask if you were thinking of trying 
it?' 

' I hardly know.' Mr. Bryant spoke in a slow, 
cutting, yet far-away voice, as of one finding pleasure 
in self-torture; 'the final leap requires courage. 
Once,' he continued, ' I saw a woman and a girl 
almost run over by a train. I was near enough to 
rescue them. But I came away? ' 

' Did you ? What became of them ?' 

' They were saved somehow. I never cared to 
inquire how. I had no hand in it. I was afraid 
of danger to myself, moral and physical' Vincent 
wondered how much of this was acting. He left 
the subject. 

' Stay out here awhile,' he said, ' the cool air is 
pleasant.' 

Mr. Bryant seated himself on the platform bench 
and buried his face in his hands, and Vincent stood 
near him and waited. It seemed a long time before 
Mr. Bryant raised his head and said in a low, 
broken voice — 

' Will you stay with me, Vincent, for a day or 
two V 

* Certainly, if you wish it. Would you like me 
VOL. Ill 54 



226 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

to send for Georgina V he asked presently. Mr. 
Bryant shuddered. 

' My God !' he said, ' I feel as if I could never 
see Georgina again ! ' He was silent for a time ; 
then said, still in the broken voice which seemed 
at last to come from his heart, ' Can you conceive 
what it must be to have two selves ; and one a false 

self? Tf I go back to Georgina and to X , it 

is to return to the false self.' Vincent reflected, and 
remembered Nannie's words about enduring the 
undesired upon one's doorstep. 

' Come to Everwell,' he said, ' and we will lay 
her in the churchyard beside her brothers.' There 
was a pause. 

' I shall never return to X / said Canon 

Bryant, ' never.' 

' Don't make plans now,' said Vincent ; ' come 
home with me.' He was thinking that his mother 
would know how to deal with this lost soul. 

' It is intolerable,' groaned the clergyman, ' to 
think she was dying among strangers, while I — 
Oh, my God ! ' Canon Bryant had spent that 
morning in the company of his Bishop and many 
distinguished people, all hanging upon his lips. 

' But it was by her own wish that she was not 
with you,' said Vincent. 

'Do you suppose I could not have prevented 
that wish ?' 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 227 

'You were going to put an end to it. You 
would have recovered yourself — made her some 
sort of restitution.' 

' You see I am not permitted to attempt it,' 

' But if you had a genuinely willing mind, I 
suppose it is not impossible that she is now able to 
read it ? and that for the world below, thoughts 
have more value than deeds V 

' A genuinely willing mind ? How dare I say I 
had it ? I have succumbed too often before paltry 
difficulties to be certain I should have vanquished 
new ones. I had long desired to make restitution 
— your words — but should I have done it ? God 
knows. I do not. I have no confidence in myself 
Georgina is leaving me ; yet remembering my posi- 
tion at X , and the network with which I have 

surrounded myself, I scarcely dare to believe I 
should not have become entangled in some new 
compromise, some new deceit, a mere continuation 
of the old. I might have been able to comfort her 
a bit — my poor Emma — she was not very exigent ; 
but you see God will not have us think to put 
things right by a plastering up of a whited sepulchre 
full still of dead men's bones and of all unclean- 
ness. I don't know why I trouble you with all 
this,' ended the clergyman, abruptly. 

' I wish I knew how to reply,' said Vincent, and 
was long silent. Mr. Bryant forgot that he had 



228 MR. BR YANT S MISTAKE 

expected an answer, and became absorbed in his own 
torturing thoughts. It surprised him when at last 
Vincent spoke, taking up the conversation where it 
had been left, as if he had been thinking seriously. 
' If you feel all that,' he said, slowly, ' I think you 
should be glad the possibility of building up a 
whited sepulchre of compromise is out of your way. 
If shipwrecked, one would have more chance of get- 
ting to land when dropped into the water, than while 
still dangling in the air by one of the ship's ropes.' 

Vincent's unquestioning belief in Mr. Bryant's 
self-accusation was unpalatable to the latter. He 
discerned in it a distant gleam of hope ; yet he was 
already half regretting that he had spoken so freely. 

' I am not sure there is another man,' he said, 
with the bitterness of conflicting emotions, including 
much remorse and some resentment, ' who would 
refuse me credence if I chose to return to-morrow 

to X and to lie about this too, — to say Emma 

had been false to me — anything ; to keep my own 
place and position, and let her reputation go.' 

Vincent stared at him in disgusted astonishment. 
* You shall not do that,' he said, shortly, too much 
shocked to continue the conversation ; and he turned 
and walked away to the end of the platform. He 
was not a priest accustomed to confessions, nor even 
a curate with a yearning after souls ; he had no 
wish to be Mr. Bryant's confidant and the guardian 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 229 

of his conscience, — felt no special interest in his 
reformation, and had of late, indeed, gone near to 
hating the clergyman, the more because once he had 
been rather fond of him. 

But then Vincent Leicester belonged, on the 
whole, to that man's family who said, ' I will not,' 
but afterwards repented. He had no idea of 
shirking anything he was fairly in for. And here 
was this wretched man depending on hmi to cut 
the ropes by which he was still, it seemed, clinging 
to the sinking ship ! 

' You shall not do that,' Vincent had said shortly, 
and walked away; yet presently he returned, in- 
voluntarily moved by the attitude and expression of 
despair, and by what seemed the appealing look of 
the hollow eyes fastened on him as he stood at a 
distance. But Canon Bryant's soul was still 
fluctuating between remorse and resentment. As 
Vincent left him, he had feared desertion by a 
helper ; when he returned, the priest writhed under 
a sense of humiliation. 

'What do you expect of me ?' asked the Canon, 
rising and recovering with ease that dignity of 
manner which was part of his acting character. 
But the day was past in which it could impose upon 
Vincent. 

' Mr. Bryant,' he said, gravely, ' you know what 
I, what any honest man, must expect of you. 



230 MR. BR YANT S MISTAKE 

Any one who has put himself into a false position 
is bound to get out of it as soon as he can.' He 
paused. ' If you want an immediate prescription/ 
he added presently, ' I should say, don't return at 

once to X . Come to Everwell, and consult 

my mother.' 



CHAPTER XII 

So Mr. Bryant brought his dead to Everwell, and 
poor Emma was laid beside her brothers in the 
windy churchyard of the sea-battered cliff. Vincent 
Leicester and his mother were very good to Mr. 
Bryant, and had little doubt that his remorse was 
genuine. He remained at Everwell for some time. 
Lady Katharine insisted upon Georgina coming to 
her father, and Vincent, after some demur, con- 
sented ; and even went himself to fetch her, and 
explained to her what had occurred. ' It will be a 
very painful meeting for them both,' Lady Katharine 
had said, 'but an estrangement between parent 
and child is not to be thought of.' Georgina 
behaved very nicely to everybody ; was kind to 
her father, modesty itself to Vincent, and to Lady 
Katharine told sobbingly such a plausible story 
about poor, dear, unfortunate Mrs. Bryant's visit to 
X that the gentle lady (always fond of Georgina, 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 231 

and not at all fond of Emma) was quite taken in, 
and gave Vincent a good scolding for insisting that 
the girl had proved herself heartless. Captain 
Astley joined them also several times, and Vincent 
submitted upon his mother's recommendation, and 
abused the guardsman only very privately to herself 

'Vincent, dear,' said Lady Katharine, taking 
alarm, ' if you know anything really to that young 
man's discredit you ought to come forward and pre- 
vent dear Georgie ' 

* He and Georgina are most admirably matched,' 
interrupted Vincent ; ' pray don't let us interfere 
with them.' 

It ended in Miss Bryant's wedding taking place 
on the day long arranged, but very quietly, and in 
Everwell Church. Georgina, who was greatly afraid 
of losing her husband altogether if she did not 
secure him, had, with Lady Katharine's help, carried 
her point as to the date. Vincent put the pair into 
their going -away carriage with much decorimi of 
manner and relief of feeling. 

' And I fancied myself in love with her once ! ' 
he exclaimed ; then meeting his mother's solicitous 
eye, he added in pure exuberance of relief, regard- 
less of what interpretation she might put on his 
words, ' Confess now, mother, is not Victoria supe- 
rior in every respect ? ' It was too much to expect 
of Georgina's faithful advocate. 



232 MR. Bryant's mistake 

' Indeed, Vincent, it is most fortunate that you 
think so, dear/ replied the widow, marvelling at his 
simple taste. But Vincent said no more of Miss 
Leslie, and his mother was half sorry, half relieved, 
and very greatly surprised. 

About a week after his wife's funeral, Canon 
Bryant, who spent most of the day in his own room, 
wrote a very long and very full letter to his 
friend the Bishop, explaining his humiliating reasons 
for returning to X no more. It was a dis- 
agreeable thing to write, and as he did so, it seemed 
to Mr. Bryant utterly impossible that he should ever 
make up his mind to post the letter. However, he 
struggled on to the end ; read it over and thought 
it would do, and then put it aside to sleep upon it. 
In the morning he was much struck with what a 
horrible thing it was, and what an upset it would 
cause in his life. He devised another plan. He 

would go home to X after a week or two, and 

explain no more than that his dear wife had died 
suddenly under exceptionally painful circumstances. 
Neither Vincent nor his mother had any connection 

with X , nor would be likely to add audible 

commentary to this statement. In fact, Vincent 
had said pretty plainly that he was not going to 
soil his own fingers by throwing mud at Mr. 
Bryant. 

' If ever I were questioned,' thought the Canon, 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 233 

' God knows I would try to speak the truth, but 
why should I volunteer this ? I will go on with 
my work. My punishment is surely great enough 
without outward degradation ; remorse is a daily 
and an unspeakable torture, and that I shall never 
lose.' He walked up and down, the letter in his 
hand, in a painful state of indecision, feeling his 
moral courage momently ebbing away, as his 
physical courage would have ebbed away had he 
attempted to leap under the Scotch express. 

At the moment, Vincent and his mother were 
talking of Mr. Bryant in the library. 

* What is he going to do, dear ? do you know ? ' 

'No. He told me he would not return to 

X , but I am sure I don't know if he meant it. 

He only made the remark once. I have not dived 
into his confidence since.' 

' Poor man ! ' 

' Poor man indeed ! Well, I don't know, or care 
to know, the details of what he has done ; but he 
shouldn't be a canon, making eyes at fat deaneries.' 

' Perhaps,' said Lady Katharine, meditatively, ' he 
will do the same as the priest I once heard of, who 
assembled his congregation as usual, and in the 
course of the sermon confessed, with terrible anguish, 
that he had been guilty of an atrocious crime which 
his conscience would no longer permit him to con- 
ceal. I believe the effort and the agony killed him 



234 MR. Bryant's mistake 

on the spot.' Vincent shut the book he was read- 
ing with a bang. 

' Good heavens ! ' he exclaimed, ' we aren't in a 
theatre ! ' 

Then a message came to Vincent. ' Canon 
Bryant, sir, would be greatly obliged if you would 
speak to him for a moment' Vincent went upstairs. 

Without a word the clergyman handed him the 
open letter ; then stood very pale and almost giddy 
by the window, looking out at the sea. Vincent 
glanced at him over the top of the paper for an 
instant, and read the document in silence. 

' Thank you,' he said, drily, returning it. And 
he went away, leaving Mr. Bryant directing the 
letter. ' I suppose I ought to be gratified by acting 
as fulcrum,' said Vincent to himself, perceiving his 
friend's motive in exhibiting the document. 

The young man was no sooner gone than Mr. 
Bryant took the letter out of the cover and read it 
over again to see how it must have appeared to 
Vincent. And he had a return of all his old in- 
decision. 

After a long time he wrote again, to the effect 
that his lordship would have heard of the circum- 
stances under which he had been obliged to absent 
himself last Sunday from his pulpit. For the same 
reasons he must crave to be excused from attending 
his lordship's valuable clerical meeting on Thursday, 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 235 

and from accepting his invitation for two days to 

the palace. Upon his return to X , in a few 

weeks, he would probably feel it necessary to 
trouble his lordship with a short personal explana- 
tion. Till then his recent bereavement would be 
accepted as an excuse for temporary neglect of his 
clerical duties. 

That evening at the hour \vhen the post-bag 
was locked, generally by Su' Vincent himself, to be 
despatched to Tanswick by a groom, the young man 
came upstairs to his visitor's room, entered without 
knocking, and shut the door. 

* Your letter is to go, Mr. Bryant ? ' 

' Certainly.' Vincent handed him the missive 
directed to the Bishop, and Canon Bryant turned it 
over once or twice with trembling fingers. 

' Wliy not ? ' he said, returning it. 

' You have by accident,' said Vincent, ' used a 
very transparent envelope. This is a short letter, 
not covering one side of note-paper. It is all right, 
no doubt ; only it is not the letter you showed me.' 

They stood and looked at each other for some 
moments. Then the clergyman, palUd before, be- 
came ghastly. He unlocked the desk, took out the 
original letter ready directed but unsealed, and held 
it, almost stupidly, it seemed. Vincent waited a 
moment. 

' Give it to me,' he said ; then lighted a candle 



236 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

and sealed it himself, looking from time to time at 
the Canon, who was watching him intently. ' Shall 
I burn this other ? ' asked the young man, drily. 
Mr. Bryant bowed his head. Vincent destroyed the 
substituted letter in his presence, and then went 
away with the original document ready for the post. 
It reached its destination in due course, and Vincent 
never mentioned that little incident to any one. 

Mr. Bryant never returned to X , and he 

never attained to any high position in society or in 
the Church. He dropped his title of Canon. After 
being abroad for some months he took a curacy in 
Stepney, where he laboured indefatigably, and where 
he was much beloved. He published anonymously 
two volumes of sermons, which attracted notice. 
He was considered quite old, and he was always 
alone, living very simply — a poor man among the 
poor, giving most of his money away. His vicar 
knew all about him, but to most persons he was an 
enigma. He seemed to have very few friends, but 
apparently this was from choice, for many knew his 
name and spoke of him with affection and esteem. 
The only person with whom he appeared intimate 
was a young baronet from the north, who sometimes 
spent a few days with him, going about at his 
side in the parish like a son, and talking pleasantly 
to the poor people. The clergyman had been to 
visit this young man ; Everwell was the name of 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 237 

his property. Mr. Bryant had a picture of the 
churchyard at that place, strikingly painted. He 
kept it locked up ; but once some one coming in 
unexpectedly had found him looking at it with 
sorrowful eyes. There was another picture beside 
it — a portrait of a middle-aged woman, with 
faded cheeks, and brown hair turning thin and 
gray. Mr. Bryant permitted the intruder to look 
at the pictures, and explained that they had been 
executed from memory by a very clever artist who 
had lost his reason, and who devoted most of his 
time to painting scenes and people he had known 
in happier days. Then Mr. Bryant locked the 
pictures up, and no one saw them again. 

He had a portrait, too, of a very handsome young 
lady, understood to be his daughter — married, and 
very fashionable. No one had ever seen her in 
Stepney, but her name appeared sometimes in the 
newspapers among lists of grand people who went 
to drawing-rooms and balls. 

Once a woman, who had a baby to be baptized, 
asked the old curate what name he would recom- 
mend for her. 

' Well,' he said, in his kind way, ' this is my 
daughter's birthday. Suppose you name the little 
woman after her — Georgina.' 



238 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 



CHAPTEK XIII 

Not quite yet had Vincent and Nannie parted. 
He had not been more than a day or two at home, 
when he had received a despairing letter from 
the girl. 

' I am really in great trouble now, and you told 
me to tell you if I was in trouble. Aunt Ann has 
disappeared. She went away the day I came to 
poor Aunt Emma, and she has taken baby with her. 
She told the children I would take care of them, 
and she would come back soon. But she has not 
come back, and I am dreadfully frightened, and I 
can't get news of her, and I don't know what to do. 
And it seems just like Aunt Emma going away, and 
we know how that ended. And I have been to 
every one I know, but no one seems able to help 
me; and Mrs. Browne and Miss Heath are away. 
Oh, please do write and tell me what to do, for I 
am frightened out of my senses, and I think it will 
kill Alick, if he hears I have let her come to harm 
and dear little Boy too.' 

Of course Vincent darted off to London at 
once. Mrs. Leach had no doubt taken a drop too 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 239 

much and got into some scrape. Poor, little, 
hapless Nannie ! 

He made a few hasty inquiries at police- 
offices before going to Charles Street, but learned 
nothing. However, that was not wonderful; the 
matter would have to be gone into more systemati- 
cally. As to a few stray persons fished out of the 
Thames and awaiting identification, none of their 
descriptions seemed to fit Mrs. Leach. Vincent 
might have to inspect their corpses to-morrow, but 
he would see Nannie first. She might by this time 
have a clue. Somehow, in spite of his gloomy con- 
jectures, Vincent did not expect anything very 
tragic. There was always a sort of method in Mrs. 
Leach's madness, and the young man smiled to him- 
self, as he ascended the creaky stairs to her two 
rooms in the mean house of the plebeian quarter. 
' But how am I to comfort my sweet Nannie ? ' he 
asked himself as he rapped at the door. Oh, joy ! 
he heard not only Jimmy's chatter, but Nannie's 
own soft laugh, quickly hushed indeed, as if she 
remembered recent grief; but would she laugh 
at all if she were supposing poor Aunt Ann 
and the posthumous darling lying cold and hungry 
and uncomfortable at the miry bottom of the 
Thames ? 

Oh, how pretty Nannie was as she came forward 
in her dark dress, tired and fragile -looking, but 



240 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

with her soft eyes bright and her cheeks still 
dimpled from that recent laugh. She flushed 
deeply, however, when she saw who her visitor was, 
and Nannie's flush was always the prettiest tender 
pink in the world. Most refreshing she was to the 
eyes of Vincent Leicester, after that be-tailored and 
be-dancing-mastered Georgina. 

Nannie looked very demure as she replied to his 
opening questions, her eyes cast down and her smile 
resolutely banished. 

'I am sure I don't know what you will think 
of me, sir. You will forgive me the liberty, I 

hope ' 

' Don't, Nannie, talk in that — that stupid way,' 
said Vincent ; and she couldn't help looking up for 
one moment, and for the life of her she couldn't 
help a little smile. 

'It was very good of you to come,' she said, 
demure again, ' but I do wish I hadn't been in such 
a hurry to write and to give you so much trouble 
for nothing.' 

' Trouble, Nannie ? But come, I see you have 
had news of your aunt.' 
* Yes.' 

' Well, where is she ? What has happened to 
her?' 

' She has gone and got married,' said Nannie. 
' What ? ' Vincent was not sure he had heard 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 241 

aright. It would not do. They both went into fits 
of unseemly laughter, though Nannie made quite 
desperate efforts to stifle hers and be dignified. 

' She has just been here and told us/ said the 
girl at last. ' Oh, please, don't laugh any more. 
The children will think us so queer, and, indeed, it 
seems to me there is something rather dreadful 
about it.' 

'An elopement! You were a bad duenna, 
Nannie. What sort of a man has she married ? ' 

'He is a very respectable man. We have 
Ivnown him a long time — ever since we came to 
London. And all his family. He and his brother 
have a large green-grocer's shop, near where we 
lived first. Mrs. Browne deals there and thinks a 
great deal of them. He is younger than Aunt Ann, 
and he was a widower, and,' said Nannie, drily, ' I 
believe one of his names is Jim.' And then they 
laughed again, till the tears ran down Nannie's 
cheeks. 

' Well ; it is not so disastrous then ? But why 
did she run away for the wedding, Nannie ? Had 
you refused your consent?' 

' I ? I never dreamed of it as even possible ! 
An old woman like Aunt Ann !' cried Sweet-and- 
twenty, indignantly. * I am sure I don't know why 
she kept it a secret. She likes to be wonderful. 
She said she wanted to surprise us all ; and never 

VOL. Ill 55 



242 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

thought of the fearful, fearful fright I was in. I 
can't help laughing now ; but the children can tell 
you how I cried yesterday, and walked about all 
day looking for her. You hnow I must have been 
terrified, or I should never have written to you. 
And she all the time gone down to Margate with 
her new husband, quite happy, as if she had never 
had any troubles at all ! And she took baby, 
thinking sea air would do him good, as he was born 
by the sea ! And she has brought me such a great 
big, huge bag of prawns, for a wedding present she 
said. I can't think whatever I shall do with them 
all. Oh, please sir, could you eat some of them ? 
I don't know how I can laugh like this,' said 
Nannie, rubbing her merry eyes, ' when I remembei* 
how wretched I have been, and where it was I saw 
you last. It is very heartless of me, and indeed I 
don't feel amused, except just on the top as it were. 
Do you think it very amusing ?' 

' Yes, I do,' said Vincent ; ' why shouldn't we 
laugh ? You really think well of the man ? 
I may report favourably of him to Alick ?' 

' Oh dear ! What will Alick say ? Yes, Mr. 
Fisher is all right. But I do not think one w^oman 
ought to have three husbands, and I am sure you 
don't.' 

' The sentimental objection,' said Vincent, ' may 
apply to a second marriage. But I can't see how 



SOME ARE MARRIED, SOME ARE DEAD 243 

it applies to a third ! This is likely to be a great 
relief for you, Nannie.' 

' Oh/ cried the girl, ' if only it had happened 
before, if only I had known it was going to happen 
— then I could have gone back to poor Aunt 
Emma ! It seems now as if it was all Aunt Ann's 
fault ; and yet yesterday I w^as thinking I ought 
not to have left her for one moment, and that Alick 
would never forgive me for my neglect of his 
mother !' 

' Nannie, you had too much to do,' said Vincent ; 
and she replied — 

' Yes, sometimes it seemed as if I was too little 
and too stupid ! I must have managed badly for 
both of them. And now there is very little I can 
do for either.' 

' Is there anything ? Your work is done.' 

'No. I have not quite done with Aunt 
Ann. Mr. Fisher can't know yet what a funny 
woman she is, and may want a little advice from 
me.' 

* Nannie, Nannie ! ' said Vincent, laughing. 

' And I am so afraid she will starve him. She 
is determined to make him a vegetarian, because 
he's a greengrocer. Do please remember to tell 
Dr. Verrill. He may be pleased. I am not sure 
any one else will ! ' 

'Now, Nannie, if she has married this man, 



244 MR. BR YANT S MISTAKE 

you must leave her to him. You had better 
come home to Everwell. I am quite serious, 
Nannie.' 

She started and looked down. ' I think the 
same reason that made me go away from Everwell 
will keep me away/ she said, in a low voice. 

' You mean — Nannie, I will promise never to 
give you five minutes' annoyance.' Nannie clasped 
her hands, much distressed, and kept silence for a 
few minutes. 

' No/ she said suddenly, with decision, ' there is 
not a person belonging to me in the place except 
Tom ! And I should not like living with Tom at 
all!' Vincent smiled. 

' Perhaps you had better go to Sydney to your 
brothers.' 

' Caroline says so/ said Nannie ; ' she says she 
got a husband at once, and even Patty is like to 
have one, and maybe I might have a chance. Oh 
dear, I wish I didn't want to laugh so much to-day ! 
No, I will not go to Australia. I told you why 
long ago ! ' said Nannie, fiercely. Vincent was 
silent. She stood before him defiantly, with her 
arms crossed on her breast, and her head thrown 
back to meet his look of disapproval. But she had 
lost all mistrust of him, and even dared to sail a 
little near the wind. 

' And you ? ' said Nannie presently, turning 



CONCLUSION 245 

away. ' When some people can love even three 
husbands, very soon after one another too ' 

' Well, what about me V 

' I was only thinking, among so many different 
kinds of love — I mean it would make me really 
glad, and happy, to hear that you — that there was 
some lady ' 

' My grandfather has found one for me,' replied 
Vincent, easily ; ' very eligible and nice.' 

'Not Miss Bryant?' 

' Oh no. Miss Bryant was not considered 
eligible. Moreover, she is engaged to a fellow with 
spurs, and two inches taller than I am.' 

' But — the other lady V 

' She is called after the Queen. She is very 
pretty, and very good, and very rich. I don't 
think she is very clever, but if she were she would 
only find me stupid.' 

' Oh, do think of herl' cried Nannie, so earnestly 
that he had difficulty in keeping up the bantering 
tone. 

' I am sorry to say we bore each other sometimes 
already. Nannie, sometimes when I look at her, I 
think Mrs. Bryant may have been like her ; a 
pretty, tender, climbing plant, which could only 
perish miserably, if thrust out into the rough 
world without a prop to sustain it.' 

' Ah, do think of the lady !' repeated Nannie, 



246 MR, BRYANT S MISTAKE 

discerning some little tenderness for Victoria. 
' She has a pretty name. I shall like to think of 
her !' Vincent smiled. 

' It must be very pleasant/ he replied, ' to be so 
easily suited as Mrs. Leach.' And Nannie laughed 
again, this time a little hysterically. 



PART XII 

CONCLUSION 



GHAPTEE I 

One evening in the early autumn, some two or 
three years later, a young lady, carrying a few books 
and a brown paper parcel, came out of Mrs. 
Mustard's Finishing School, and walked away 
slowly towards the Eegent's Park, with her head 
bent, and evidence of some anxiety sitting on her 
fair, sweet face. Before she had gone very far, she 
was joined by another girl, who, if not quite so tall, 
was the more solidly built and robust looking of the 
two. She was dressed with a trifle more pretence 
and less taste ; however, there was nothing in the 
costume of either to attract the smallest notice. It 
was dark coloured, plain, and neat, of the ordinary 
fashionable cut ; just the everyday garb of two very 
respectable, middle-class women, who might have 
been impecunious ladies, their own dressmakers, or 
what the wearers actually were, working girls of 
good position. They were both pretty, and the 
elder seemed the younger and the more fragile. 
A stranger might not have guessed that she was the 



250 MR. Bryant's mistake 

leading spirit ; nor would he have suspected that 
the blooming Lizzie had once passed through a 
somewhat severe nervous crisis, the result of actual 
trouble and not unreasonable panic. Nannie's 
discipline had answered ; work, companions, affec- 
tion, and general success had made the hysterical 
child into a strong young woman, quite on her own 
feet now, and likely to prosper and be in health, 
even as her soul prospered. 

' Lizzie, dear,' said Nannie, as they sat together 
on a bench in the Park, 'has Madame said any more 
about taking you into her house ?' 

'Why, yes. She says she must have me or 
Miss Heap, now Miss Smithson's going away. It 
would be like training to be forewoman. But I do 
think it'll be hard if Susan Heap gets ahead of me 
after all, when I began first ! ' 

' Lizzie, why haven't you closed with Madame's 
offer?' 

' Well now, Nan ! if you aren't a queer girl ! 
You'd be jolly lonely if I left you by yourself with 
those two children.' 

'Listen, Liz. The children are going away. 
Mr. Fisher has bought a business at Beckenham, 
ten miles out, and they are all to move in a fort- 
night ; and Aunt Ann wishes to take Polly and 
Jimmy too.' 

' To the country ! ' said Lizzie, with contempt. 



CONCLUSION 251 

' Well, I ain't sorry. I don't pretend I shall miss 
mother much. The way she do talk ! It sets folk 
laughing at me.' 

' I suppose the children must go. But what 
are we to do without them ?' 

' I like the girls in the workroom better,' said 
the young dressmaker. 

'Lizzie, you had better go and board with 
Madame. It's a pity to refuse a rise like that, and 
I want you to stay on with her.' 

' But, Xannie, you can't be left alone.' 

' Oh, I don't know,' said Nannie, restlessly, 
rising and shading her eyes from the sun, and 
looking at some pigeons w^heeling round a dovecot 
beyond the trees. ' I think I may try something 
new altogether. I am not so fond of London as you 
are — and I get very, very tired of all the streets, 
and the noise, and the pale, sad people, who work 
so hard and earn so little, and have so few pleasures, 
and some such ugly ones.' 

' That's the same everywhere,' said Lizzie ; ' and 
there's plenty of fun to be had even while you sew 
your fingers to the bone. I wish you'd gone in for 
the dressmaking too, Nannie.' 

' There's more pleasure in other places,' con- 
tinued her cousin ; ' I don't care for the trees in 
the park so much; they are planted and railed in, 
and you mayn't pick the flowers. And there are 



252 MR. Bryant's MISTAKE 

wild beasts shut up in prisons over there, to be 
looked at as a show. And if you stand up to see 
a bird fly, as I did then, there are men passing who 
stop, and stare, and wonder what you are at. I 
think of my old home in the country, where it was 
all grand and solemn, and there were great trees 
come up of themselves, and little wild creatures in 
the fields ; and there were no strangers, and people 
cared for you. And if you had some day been dead 
and buried, there'd have been some one to be sorry ! ' 
cried Nannie, vehemently. 

'Why, lass !' expostulated her cousin. 

' I've had a deal of suffering and sorrow, Lizzie, 
since I came to London ; a deal more than ever 
I told you. And sometimes it seems the loneliness 
will kill me. Look, Liz ; here we are, you and me, 
not old, nor ugly, nor disagreeable ; and we sit here 
on the bench and nobody cares. And if we neither 
of us came no more, there is not a person would 
wonder, or ask what had happened to us.' Lizzie 
was not used to this wild strain. She looked at 
her cousin half frightened. 

' Why, yes ; Madame would ; and Mother 
Mustard. Besides, any one so pretty as you ' 

' Oh, that is not what I mean ! ' cried Nannie, 
impatiently ; ' I wonder you don't understand. 1 
feel lost in London, and lonely, and sometimes 
scared. If I am pretty, I'd like to be with them 



CONCLUSION 253 

who would love me for being pretty, and in a place 
where I had friends, and wasn't frightened at my 
own face, and trying to hide it up and keep people 
from finding out about it !' 

' But, Nannie ' 

' Sometimes I think I'll go to X to be near 

Alick. He seems a bit better lately, and maybe 

I could see him often. But X is a big town too, 

full of strangers. Oh, Lizzie, I wish I might go 
home to Everwell ! I wish there was a corner at 
Everwell for me to fit into !' 

* I cannot think what makes you so fond of 
Everwell.' 

' Cannot think ? Lizzie, you are a woman now, 
and 1 thought you'd understand. Have you for- 
gotten the sea rolling in over the rocks, with the 
wild-birds screaming and the white spray, Lizzie, 
and the children climbing over the Scar — so happy ! 
— not like the pale children here ! Oh, Lizzie, I 
was fond of that place ! And the valley with the 
moss and the boulder-stones, and the sheep straying 
about ; and always a glimpse of the sea beyond. 
And the strand where Alick and I stood together, 
and the people listened to him, and sang with us of 
the heavenly country. Oh, how happy I was then ! 
A little lass, younger than you, Lizzie, and so 
pleased to be loved, and when folk told me I was 
pretty ! I remember one day at the Farm, when 



254 MR. Bryant's mistake 

the roses were out, and I sat on the ground mak- 
ing wreaths ; and Joe, my brother — Lizzie, I had 
brothers and sisters then ! — was helping me, and 
looking at me as if he was proud of his sister ; and 
I threw roses at him and was happy. And the 
sun shone over us all ; and Alick came too ; and — 
and — ' She paused. 

' But you'd find it lonesome now, Nan,' pleaded 
Lizzie ; ' those people are all gone away.' 

' No, no, not gone — not those whom I love best 1' 
cried the girl, passionately ; and then she burst into 
tears. ' I wish I was a little lass again,' she sobbed, 
' whom folk played with and took care of and loved. 
I wish I was on the Scar by the pool, with the sea- 
weeds and the white foam flushing it ; or in the 
valley near my home at evening time. I was 
seventeen then, Lizzie ; and I was thoughtless and 
happy. I did not know what a sad, lonely life I 
was going to have. I wish I had died then ! I 
wish I had died then !' 

' Poor lass,' said Lizzie, kissing her hand lovingly. 
' Alick was an unlucky sweetheart for thee.' There 
was a long silence, broken only by Nannie's sobs 
and little loving words from her cousin. Then the 
latter whispered doubtfully, ' Maybe thou shouldn't 
think of him so much, Nannie. Maybe it were better 
if you could get Alick to give it up. I think, per- 
haps, dear lassie, thy mind is running on Mr. Filby.' 



CONCLUSION 255 

Nannie started up and dashed her tears away. 
' I am not a faithless woman, Liz/ she said, indig- 
nantly; 'and no, it is not of Mr. Filby I am thinking. 
Don't mind me, lass,' Nannie went on, forcing a 
smile. ' I'm just a bit low to-night with losing the 
children. Long ago I remember Miss Verrill telling 
me that all old maids, and particularly women who 
had loved a man well enough to want to mate with 
him, had a deal of heartache to bear before they got 
to their lives' end. She said it was worst between 
thirty and forty,' said Nannie, with a little laugh, 
' but maybe it comes to some folk earlier.' 

Lizzie was relieved by this change of tone. 

' Well,' she said, ' I'll never believe Miss Verrill 
had much chance of a husband that she need fret. 
But you now. Nan, you were a likely looking girl, 
It's a pity about you.' Presently they rose and 
began strolling home slowly through the emptying 
streets. Now and then an involuntary sigh 
escaped from Nannie ; but Lizzie was self-absorbed, 
like most young things, and her mind, at any rate, 
was running on Mr. Filby ; who was a highly 
respectable bagman, almost the only bachelor of 
their acquaintance, and long a rapt worshipper of 
the beautiful Nannie, and a warm friend of the 
blooming Lizzie. 

' Do you think, dear,' said Lizzie, at last, ' / shall 
ever have a chance of a good offer ? ' 



256 MR. BR Y ant's MISTAKE 

* Oh, I hope SO ! ' replied Nannie, ' for your 
mother always told me, and I think she was most 
likely right, that there was something disgraceful in a 
woman without a husband.' Lizzie glanced at her 
cousin, feeling again the pathos of such a dismal 
prospect for one so likely looking. 

' Nannie, lass,' she said, stopping on their door- 
step and putting her arm round the slight frame of 
the elder girl, ' Nannie, you gave up all your chances 
in life for my brother, and it's little for me to give 
up a rise at Madame Vera's for thee. Let us live 
together a bit longer, Nannie, like we have done so 
long.' 

' Dear, dear Lizzie,' said Nannie, clinging to her 
affectionately. 

Then they entered, and Nannie found a letter, 
and carried it into the inner room while Lizzie pre- 
pared the supper. 

The girls still lived in Charles Street, but their 
rooms were less bare and dreary than of old. 
They were not poor, for Mr. Fisher paid liberally 
for the keep of the two children ; Lizzie had good 
wages, and Nannie her little income and her 
earnings. There were pretty curtains in the 
windows, books and photographs on the tables ; 
geraniums and creeping jennies on the sills. But 
they lived very quietly. Miss Mustard or Miss 
Smithson almost their only visitors. ' We are 



CONCLUSION 257 

regular old maids,' grumbled Lizzie sometunes ; and 
verily Nannie had of late been feeling the cares of 
a chaperon. It was one reason why she welcomed 
Madame Vera's proposal to take Lizzie to live in 
her own house ; for the girl refused to frequent 
her mother's establishment, and had no proper 
courtship facilities. Even Mr. Filby was never able 
to see her apart from the involuntary rivalry of her 
lovely cousin. So Nannie, who always in the end 
got her own way, was quite sure that her work for 
Lizzie was done, and that she had no right to retain 
the girl longer, whatever Lizzie's protestations, or 
whatever the cost to herself. But she had not 
calculated upon losing Polly and Jimmy as well as 
their sister. A sense of desolation overwhelmed her 
at the prospect. 

That evening Nannie was so long in coming 
to supper that at last Lizzie went to look for 
her. She was kneeling by the darkened window, 
her eyes fixed on the evening clouds above the 
chimney tops, and her lips moving as if in prayer. 
Lizzie took the open letter from her trembling 
hands and began to read it aloud, frightened by 
Nannie's pale looks and dry, sorrow-filled eyes, which 
told of freshly fallen trouble. 

This is what Lizzie read — 

'Dear Nannie — Have you courage yet once 
more to watch by a sick, it may be by a dying, bed ? 
VOL. Ill 56 



258 MR. Bryant's mistake 

Alick is ill, and he has asked for you. That is 
enough, I know, to bring you at once. But do not 
think there is any immediate danger. — Yours very 
truly, ' V. Leicester.' 

' Lass,' said the younger girl, as Nannie jealously 
took back her letter, ' I cannot help thinking it 
would be a mercy if he was taken.' 

'How simple, Lizzie, it all appears to thee!' 
said Nannie, bitterly. 

Lizzie put her arms round her ; ' Nan, it seems 
to me just common sense. You won't never give 
him up, and yet it's spoiling your life; and con- 
sidering as his is no sort of pleasure to him — ' 
Lizzie stopped short, thinking, ' Yes, she will 
marry Mr. Filby,' and believing herself very gen- 
erous for being able to contemplate this probability 
with resignation. 

' Don't, please, say no more, Liz/ said Nannie. 
' You don't understand. It's easy to you to talk of 
my giving Alick up, or of his dying and everything 
coming right ! There's a deal more in it. Don't, 
please, say no more. Oh, lass, lass ! ' she cried, fall- 
ing on her cousin's neck, ' if thou knewest how I 
wish I might have died when I was seventeen. 
When T was seventeen, Lizzie ! Oh, I wish I might 
have died then ! ' 

Nannie did not sleep that night ; she seemed 



CONCLUSION 259 

to have gone back to that terrible time in her life 
when she had said, ' I won't think.' The long dull 
season of despair and apathy which had intervened 
between then and now seemed like a dream. In- 
stinctively she felt it was ended. Her work for all 
the persons to whom she had given herself in their 
need was done. 

' When I get there/ she said, ' I know I shall 
find him dead, and without one parting word. 
And then — oh, God, what next ? what next ? I 
cannot, I will not think.' 

' I shall go to Australia,' she told Lizzie, ' if my 
Alick dies. I will go right away and keep house 
for Joe. Poor Joe ! he was always fond of me. 
He minds me of summer time and roses. I will go 
to Joe, and work, and work, and work, and never 
think. I am a working girl,' cried Nannie ; ' I 
won't be a nursery governess, whatever Mrs. Mustard 
says, nor never again a dressed-up doll in a shop 
for people to stare at. I will go far away, and 
work, work, till I die of it, like a cab horse.' 

But somehow she could not see herself landing 
in Australia — a working girl in a cotton frock. 
She could not see herself anywhere. 

' My life seems come to an end,' groaned 
Nannie within herself. ' I cannot guess another 

step. Perhaps I am going to die in X with 

Alick, and be buried with him. At Everwell — at 



26o MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

Everwell ! We both had our hearts there, within 
sound of the sea. Sir Vincent will do that much 
for us, I know. And he will bring the lady 
Victoria, or whoever it is, to look at our graves, and 
I think he will tell her a little about me. That 
will be the best end, I think. I would rather sleep 
there at Everwell among the folk who loved me, 
than be a toiling, sad woman, whom no one wants 
very much, far away in Australia, and always cry- 
ing for the past.' 



CHAPTEE II 

Anxiety, a sleepless night, and a hurried breakfast, 
no less than long suffering and gradual invasion of 
loneliness, idleness, needlessness to others and in- 
difference about herself, had made Nannie into a 
wan, faded woman, with sad eyes, worn and sunken, 
and sweet lips compressed and pale. Vincent met 
her at the station, and his manner was perfectly 
restrained and quiet ; but the change in her shook 
him terribly. This, his radiant Nannie ? 

' Is my Alick dead ? ' she cried out, clenching 
her hands and turning from him. 

' Hush, Nannie,' — so Vincent spoke gently ; ' be 
brave, as you always are. Alick is expecting you. 



CONCLUSION 261 

Tliey do not say that he is dying ; only it looks a 
little like it.' 

* Let me go to him/ said Xannie ; and presently 
she added with a sob, ' Thank you so much, sir, for 
coming to my poor Alick.' 

After that they were silent till they had reached 
the door of Alick's dreary home, and then Vincent 
said — 

' I should tell you, Nannie, that he is quite 
himself There is nothing to be afraid of.' 

The doctor and the attendants looked a little 
curiously at Miss Eandle, as the gentleman, who 
was well known to them all, led her to her sweet- 
heart. She had not been there many times before, 
and she had always come with Mrs. Leach, whose 
plebeian aspect was unmistakable. No one had 
thought much about Nannie, except that she was a 
pretty creature. Perhaps they were impressed by 
Sir Vincent's having gone to-day to meet her. At 
any rate one of the nurses said, half aloud, ' She 
looks too good for Eandle.' 

Nannie noticed nothing till they reached the 
private ward where Alick lay — a clergjTnan sitting 
beside him friendlily, and looking at his drawings. 
The immediate cause of the man's illness was 
rheumatism. However, he was rid of the pains, 
and now fairly at ease. Only he seemed to have 
no rallying power, and to be trembling on the verge 



262 MR. Bryant's mistake 

of a general break-up. But the eyes he turned 
towards the opening door had all their old intel- 
ligence and their own brilliance. He smiled as 
Nannie entered, and held out his hands to her. It 
was no longer the gloomy maniac, the victim of 
remorse, disappointment, and despair ; it was the 
Alick of her girlhood and her pride and her bound- 
less hope. 

' Oh, dear, dear lad 1 ' she murmured, folding her 
arms round him ; ' thy Nannie has come.' 

' Lassie, lassie ! ' said Alick, and lay back and 
looked and smiled at her with happy, loving eyes, 
such as she had not seen for long, long years — 
never during the days of their ill-starred betrothal. 

' You are thin, Nannie,' said Alick ; ' thin and 
very white, more like a lily now than a rosebud. 
It has been too much for thee, lassie.' 

' Oh no — no, Alick.' 

' It's nigh ended now, Nannie,' he said, gently. 

' No, no,' she repeated, with the vehemence of 
self-reproach ; ' you are better, lad. I have often 
made you well before. You shall get well now for 
your Nannie again.' She had forgotten the two or 
three other persons in the room, and Alick, accus- 
tomed to being watched, had not noticed them. 
Now his eyes travelled slowly round his com- 
panions till they rested on Vincent. He summoned 
him with a glance. 



CONCLUSION 263 

' Tell her,' said Alick, in a low voice, slowly, and 
touching her head with loving fingers, 'all you said 
to me last night.' 

Vincent looked down silently at the shaken girl. 
'Not now,' he said, presently. Nannie raised her 
head half defiantly, but Alick was smiling still, with 
loving eyes meeting hers. 

* He will tell you some day, Nannie. I thank 
my God that He has given me this little minute of 
quiet at the last, and that I was able to talk to yon 
man and to know that he spoke to me well. Thou 
hast done for me, lassie, what no woman ever did 
for her lad before ; but now thou must wish for 
nothing better but that I may go down to the tomb 
in peace, and sleep there till the Eesurrection morn- 
ing. I would not murmur against God's will,' said 
Alick, ' if it pleases Him to raise me up in a 
measure, so as to go on living here, and aye trying 
to find Him in the dark. I have been a grievous 
sinner, and it's fitting I should be punished. But 
if my strength returns and my chastisement goes 
on, I will not have everything just the same, lassie. 
I have been given my senses to-night to settle that. 
I will not blight thy life, Nannie. I will give thee 
up. And if I say different another time, thou must 
not hearken to me, for it will not be I that say it, 
but the minister of Satan sent to buffet me.' 

' Alick, Alick ! ' said Nannie, reproachfully, ' I 



264 ^iR' Bryant's mistake 

did not come hither to hear such things from 
thee.' 

' No, lassie/ he answered, quietly, ' nor I will not 
say them again, for I think there is no need. I lie 
here and I look out of the window on the great bright 
clouds and on the garden tree-tops, and see the sun- 
light on 'em, and the little wind ruffling them, so 
they shimmer with silver and gold, till I think I 
have come within sight of the throne set up like an 
emerald, and the Tree of Life for the healing of the 
nations. And I hear a voice, like the good voices 
I heard long ago, telling me as the punishment is 
over, and He is calling me to Him ; to lead me, 
after all, through the pearly gates into the golden 
city where their sins are not remembered any more. 
I cannot tell — it may not be His will, or it may still 
be long to wait ; but a flood of glory has been 
poured into my soul, and it is aye waxing brighter 
and brighter, and I cannot tell what it can be, if it 
is not a drawing near to the city, which has no need 
of the sun, for the Lamb is the light thereof, and it 
shines for ever and ever.' 

' Dearest Alick ! ' said Nannie, ' oh, it is good to 
see you so happy ! ' 

' Ay, lassie,' answered Alick, in the same mea- 
sured voice, not wholly without the richness of its 
past, ' when He giveth peace, who then can make 
trouble ? It seems a dream now, the evil I did and 



CONCLUSION 26s 

the evil I suffered. I cannot mind it exactly. 
Maybe the Lord thinks I have mourned for it 
enough, and is beginning to blot it out. That 
makes me think I am drawing nigh the gates ; for 
in the heavenly city the sins are not remembered 
any more, not by oneself nor by any one. That's 
good to think on,' said Alick, with a long breath, 
' not to have to remember them any more.' 

He closed his eyes, but presently opened them 
again and said, less dreamily, ' Nannie, I would be 
glad to think you could forget them too. Thou 
wilt think kindly on thy poor Alick, and forget that 
ever he presumed on the grace of God, ay, and 
loosed his hold of the gjuidincr hand, till he followed 
Satan astray — him who w^as a liar and a murderer 
from the beginning.' The veins were standing 
out now like ropes upon his brow^ and his voice 
shook. Nannie, a little frightened, glanced at 
Vincent, tapped Alick lightly on the hand, and 
said — 

' You know, Alick, I let you say all you chose 
last night on condition that you dropped that 
tone for the future. Have no fear that Nannie 
will not remember you kindly. All your friends 
will do that, and she has loved you more than has 
any one.' 

' Ay, Alick,' said Nannie, tearfully. 

' I would I could recompense thee, lassie,' mur- 



266 MR. Bryant's mistake 

mured Alick. ' I will ask God to recompense thee, 
and to bless thee, and them thou lovest ; and to 
fulfil all thy mind.' 

' Oh, Alick, don't talk of recompense for love ! ' 
moaned Nannie ; ' was it not a joy to help thee ? 1 
would have borne the trouble for thee, lad, if I 
could.' 

' Thou wilt stay with me now, Nannie V said 
Alick, quietly ; ' I'd like my last sight on earth to 
be thy sweet face. I cannot think among the re- 
deemed I'll find many sweeter than thine.' 

' Dear Alick, I will never leave you ! And shall 
we not meet again ?' 

' Ay,' said Alick, dropping his eyes, and with a 
ring of hopeless disappointment in his voice, ' where 
there's neither marrying nor giving in marriage, but 
we'll be as the angels of God in heaven.' 

Vincent moved abruptly from the sick man's 
side and took a station by the window. Nannie, 
looking after him, saw that his eyes too had filled 
with tears. And Alick saw how her glance followed 
Vincent, but he said nothing. His hand was lying 
on hers, and round it his fingers closed appropriat- 
ingly. 

After a long time, he asked her to sing their old 
hymn, which spoke to them both of summer days 
by the Everwell waters, and tender thoughts, and 
mystic faith in things unseen. 



CONCLUSION 267 

'My Father's house on higli, 
Home of my sonl !' 

Nannie's voice was broken and quivering, but the 
clergyman, lingering in the background, joined in to 
help her, and the attendant also, who had learned 
the hymn from Alick ; and Vincent hummed the 
tune and tried to catch the words from Nannie. 
And on the dying face of the forgotten prophet 
was the rapture and the triumph of his hope's near 
fulfilment. 



CHAPTEE III 

Alick lingered for more than a week. Nannie was 
put up in the house, and was seldom away from 
him. Vincent lived at a hotel near, and came in 
and out. And daily he took Nannie for a short 
quiet walk in the fresh air, or to look at the 
wonderful Eoman remains in the Museum, or to a 
service in the stately Cathedral, which came to have 
a special significance and association for them, from 
those sad days of waiting. 

For the first day or two Alick was cheerful, and^ 
it seemed very doubtful that his strength might not 
after all return. He liked to lie smiling at Nannie, 
her hand in liis and his eyes fixed on hers, while 
she told him long pleasant stories of his mother and 



268 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

Lizzie and the children and her own life during the 
years of their separation. He gave her all his 
pictures, but without much seeming interest in 
them, and he talked himself sometimes ; chiefly in 
the old pietistic strain, ' so it was like heaven to 
hear him,' said the nurses. Vincent he was always 
glad to see, and it was to him he gave any little 
directions about the disposal of things or people 
belonging to him. 

' I'd like to have lain at Everwell,' he said one 
day, wistfully, ' among the folks for whose souls I 
have often striven with God. I never had the 
reaping, but maybe the sowing was not all for 
nought.' 

' It shall be as you wish,' said his friend. 

' And she will pass by sometimes, and maybe 
pluck a blade from the grass that covers me.' 

' She will,' said Vincent. And Alick was silent 
again, seeming satisfied. 

The only other friend to come to see him was 
Dr. Verrill. He had never succeeded of late years 
in getting much out of Alick, and Alick did not 
talk to him now. He just asked a few questions 
about the great work on vegetables, and seemed 
pleased when the little man said the illustrations 
would be its making. Then he bade Nannie do the 
talking for him. 

' A lightening before death,' said Dr. Verrill to 



CONCLUSION 269 

Vincent, as he went out ; ' it's the way of nature, 
and would, I believe, be universal but for mistaken 
medicinal practices. If men would only recognise 
dissolution as a natural process ! The lightening 
before death is, I believe, specially designed to allay 
panic. Now man does all he can to promote it. It's 
very bad. Shocking for the patient's friends, and 
disturbing to the moribund, whose nerves above 
all things should be left calm. In a state of nature, 
I belie^'e, that poor man would go off quiet and 
happy, as he is now ; but mismanaged by ignorant 
practitioners, I daresay he'll be kept artificially alive 
for several days, till every function has been dis- 
organised by the thwarted desire to die ; and the 
lightening is swallowed up in a hundredfold gloom. 
If it weren't for the law, which is perpetually 
interfering where it should have no jurisdiction, I'd 
have been inclined to put my fingers on his throat, 
and let him off gently at the moment nature in- 
tended, and had heartened him up for.' 

' It is true, I am sure,' said Vincent, ' that we 
have mismanaged him amongst us. He was meant 
for better things than he has accomplished.' 

Dr. Verrill was not altogether wrong. Alick 
was not permitted the triumphant departure which 
his friends had hoped for him. Not that he ever 
fell back into despondency ; but the physical 
symptoms of his disease increased, and were at 



270 MN. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

times distressing enough to witness. His memory 
and his consciousness failed gradually, till he had 
little desire or power for conversation. He lay 
silent and motionless, watching the people about his 
room, holding Nannie's hand, obedient to her in 
everything. When she sang, or read to him the 
familiar words from his favourite Scriptures, joy 
would light up his wan countenance ; but by 
degrees stupor gained upon him, and speaking and 
listening became alike impossible. 

Till the last night came ; and then after a 
severe physical struggle, his friends anxiously 
waiting for his hardly earned release, there was one 
short interval of consciousness. He had no power 
of speech, but intelligence returned to his eyes, and 
his feeble hand drew Nannie to him, that he might 
for the last time press his lips upon hers. She spoke 
a few tender, valedictory words, and he smiled an 
answer. Then his eyes wandered round the as- 
sembled group till they had found Vincent. He 
groped till he had found his hand also, and then he 
joined it with Nannie's, looking from one to the other 
with eyes fast glazing again, his cold hand gradually 
relaxing its grasp of the two warm, living ones. 
After that he did not move again, but lay with 
closed eyes and peaceful brow till the death-rattle 
had changed into quiet sobs, till these grew fainter 
and slower, and at last came no more. At the hour 



CONCLUSION 271 

of dawn — which for so many a soul, earth-bound m 
darkness, has brought an entrance into light — he 
stepped down into the river ; which is the river of 
the water of life, and flows in the midst of the 
street of the holy city. 



CHAPTEE IV 

Lady Katharine Leicester was a little surprised 
when, in the course of the morning, her son walked 
in at home. He did not explain himself at once, 
but sat with his head on his hand, as if weary ; with 
an air of resolution too, like that of some battered 
warrior marching to the final combat, which shall 
bring in victory. 

' Alick Eandle is dead, mother,' he said at last. 

' Indeed !' Lady Katharine had no wish to be 
unsympathetic, but she had neither understood nor 
encouraged her son's interest in that tragical fanatic. 
' You were with him, dear ? ' she said, thinking she 
might be a little more expansive now that the 
miserable creature was disposed of 

'Yes, I have been with him for a fortnight. 
Nannie was there also.' Lady Katharine started 
inwardly. It was long, indeed, since she had heard 
that unpleasant name. But she replied with admir- 
able composure — 



272 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

' Ah, yes ; she was engaged to the poor man, I 
believe. I hope his mother was able to be with 
him also.' 

'ISTo. Only Nannie and I.' A pause. Lady 
Katharine was feeling alarmed, and thinking of 
telegraphing for her father. 

' Nannie has been living in London,' said 
Vincent, ' but, from what I hear, I fancy her home 
there is dissolved for the present. In any case she 
will not wish to return till Alick's funeral is over. 
I have come to ask a favour of you, mother. I 
want you to arrange for her coming here.' Lady 
Katharine's terror was beginning to show on her 
countenance. 

' Why so, my dear Vincent ? ' 

' Alick is to be buried here at Everwell, and 
Nannie wishes to be present ; for one thing,' 

' Certainly. I will interest myself in getting a 
lodging for the poor young woman. The baker's 
wife will take her, I daresay, for a few days.' 

' That is not what I propose, mother.' 

'What then?' 

' I want you to invite her to the Heights as your 
guest,' said the son. 

' Vincent ! ' There was a pause. The widow 
indeed, could hardly restrain her tears. After living 
in a fool's paradise with her son for so many years 
it was overwhelming to have the old anxiety sprung 



CONCLUSION 273 

upon her all of a sudden in this manner. ' It is 
your own house, Vincent,' said Lady Katharine, 
very stiffly. 

' Yes. But I cannot very conveniently imdte 
Miss Eandle into it as my visitor. The in^dtation 
must come from you.' 

' I cannot prevent you, Vincent,' said Lady 
Katharine, dreadfully agitated, and falling into the 
snare of exaggeration, ' from in\'iting any person, 
man, woman, or child, into your house ; but I am 
not bound to act as hostess. You and I have Tiever 
agreed about our visitors, and I have already re- 
ceived a great many more of your friends than I 
could cordially welcome. There is a limit. I do 
not think you show much respect for your mother 
in proposing Miss Eandle as a visitor. If you 
persist, I shall feel it my duty to go away at once 
to Henslow, and I am sure your grandfather will 
both understand and approve my reason.' 

'Mother, dear,' said Vincent, rising and taking 
her hands, ' isn't that a foohsh way of talking ? 
You know perfectly that if you go away I not only 
cannot ask Nannie to my house, but must not allow 
her to come to Everwell at all at present. I think, 
mother,' he added, gravely, ' I am not rash in be- 
lieving you will regret it, if you annoy me in that 
manner.' 

Lady Katharine grew more and more alarmed ; 
VOL. Ill 67 



274 MR' BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

and she had a painful recollection of certain unkind 
but emphatic assertions from the lips of Georgina 
Bryant, which had gained a sort of unwilling 
credence from her anxious maternal mind. 

' You know, Vincent/ she protested, ' I neither 
understand, nor approve, nor can possibly assist your 
acquaintance with that young woman.' 

' I thought you understood it perfectly, mother. 
It is simple enough. I have loved Nannie for 
years, and wished to marry her. So far my suit 
has been unsuccessful ; but I have reason to believe 
that the main obstacles to our marriage are now 
removed, and so I hope Nannie will reconsider her 
decision. I wish to tell you, mother,' continued 
Vincent, ' that your objections cannot at this stage 
have effect in altering my intentions, but they may 
make considerable change in my relation to you. 
And I do think you will show your wisdom no less 
than your affection if you will refrain from any 
further useless opposition.' 

' But I do not know Miss Eandle at all !' said 
the poor widow, resolving to summon Lord Henslow 
at once ; ' nor was I aware, Vincent,' she continued, 
rashly, ' that you were keeping up a secret acquaint- 
ance with her all these years, after she had been 
obliged to leave Everwell in consequence of the 
very unpleasant remarks passed upon her and 
you.' 



CONCLUSION 275 

Vincent was unprepared for this aggressive war- 
fare on his mother's part. 

' There has been no secrecy in the acquaintance 
I have kept up with Nannie since she left Everwell,' 
he answered, hotly. ' Common sense might show, 
mother, that I should not introduce to you, nor ask 
you to be responsible for any lady with whom I 
had kept up a secret acquaintance which I was un- 
willing to have investigated.' 

' Vincent, dear ! Only you know,' she continued, 
desperately, ' I do think it was foolish to continue 
the acquaintance, remembering what people thought 
and what was publicly stated in that horrid Uggle 
Grinby newspaper. Yes, dear, I know, I was thank- 
ful you denied it ; but your grandfather said — 
And it is nearly five years ago, and yet you have 
kept up with the young woman ! I am so afraid 
people will fancy that after all there was some 
truth ' 

' I think it is highly probable,' interrupted Vin- 
cent, turning from her, ' as my own mother appears 
inclined to lead the way.' 

* Oh no, dear ! clear ! ' cried the terrified woman, 
detaining him ; ' do you think I would doubt your 
word ? ' 

' Very well, mother. But if you trust me and 
yet you consider Nannie's reputation in danger, it 
is only common charity for you to establish it. 



276 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

Whether she is ever to be my bride or not, I 
repeat my request that you will receive her here 
openly, and confess your belief that she is unworthy 
of one breath of slander. In an hour I shall return 

to X , and before I go, mother, I hope you will 

give me the message I want to carry from you to 
JSTannie.' 

Lady Katharine was left alone in a positive agony 
of perturbation. 

Before very long she invaded the dining-room, 
where her son was reading the Times and dawdling 
over some cold beef. The gentle-hearted, perplexed 
woman was torn in two by maternal affection and 
her stern sense of duty. And the worst was that 
she had made Vincent angry — a thing which had 
not occurred for years. It had been most stupid of 
her. She kissed him now deprecatingly, and tried to 
refill his glass and to pile his plate — attentions which 
Vincent received coldly, but with tolerable patience. 

' Well, mother ? ' 'said Vincent, pushing his 
luncheon away, and turning his chair. 

' Dearest, I am so distressed that I hurt you, by 
appearing to doubt for one moment ' 

' I don't want to hear any more about that. It 
offends me. Have you considered my request, 
mother ? ' 

' Vincent, dear, if there was justification for your 
annoyance, don't let it hinder us from discussing 



CONCLUSION 2TJ 

quietly, and — and — good temperedly — this very 
serious step you are meditating.' 

' Well, mother ? ' 

' I am quite sure that Miss Eandle is a very 
good as well as a most lovely girl. I never really 
thought anything else myself. Knowing you as I 
do, and seeing what she was the only day I think 
I ever spoke to her, I hope you will forgive me if 
I gave you for an instant the impression that ' 

' No, mother, I don't forgive you. If you had 
no doubts of any kind your remarks were pointless. 
But let it pass. I will think no more about it. 
Pray proceed with what you wish to say. It is 
what I have come here for — to talk the matter over 
with you.' 

'Vincent, my dearest son, I am unwilling to 
further your wishes, because I cannot believe for 
one moment that a young person, however charm- 
ing and excellent, of such a totally different rank 
and education and associates from your own, could 
make you happy as your wife or be happy herself. 
Dear, do pause.' 

' I have paused for five years,' said Vincent. 
Then, as she remained silent and almost in tears, he 
continued, ' Mother, you need not enter into an 
arg-ument. I have heard it all before, and I have 
thought it out myself. I know what you will say — 
that Nannie's grammar goes astray sometimes ; that 



278 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

she has not much learning to boast of ; that she has 
no " accomplishments " (whatever they may be) ; that 
the ceremonies of a dinner-party or a ballroom are 
unknown, and even unimaginable to her. I know 
all that. But I know also/ said Vincent, ' that she 
is the most generous, the bravest, and the sweetest 
woman I have ever met ; that she has been a bless- 
ing unspeakable to myself and to every one who 
knows her. I do not say, mother, that under no 
circumstances could I possibly have married any 
one else — nothing is gained by exaggeration — but 
I do assert, and with the firmest conviction, that 
Nannie has been, and ever will be, the one only 
woman of my love.' 

Lady Katharine, rather shaken, made no response, 
and presently Vincent resumed, ' I am not surprised, 
my dear mother, that you see objections to our 
marriage. You do not know Nannie, and it is 
natural and not unreasonable that you should think 
her deficiencies perhaps greater than they are, and 
perhaps of greater importance. They do not seem 
altogether unimportant to me even now ; and for a con- 
siderable time after I was conscious of having given 
her my heart, the objections that you still urge, and 
the danger of causing her disappointment and suffer- 
ing by dragging her into an unsuitable position, 
seemed to me also an insuperable impediment to any 
idea of marriage. But I learned to think differently. 



CONCLUSION 279 

Our attachment has been no sudden and romantic 
mushroom affair. It began, no doubt, in what you 
might call a flirtation between us, which, perhaps, 
from one point of view, had been better omitted. 
It was partly the result of circumstances which 
threw us together once or twice, partly the result 
of a careless and meaningless enough admiration on 
my part. Nannie was then a lively and innocent 
child, most beautiful, and with a nature far too 
refined for her surroundings. I have nothing to 
reproach myself with in our acquaintance, but I had 
no serious thoughts on any matter at that time, and 
it depended very much on the sort of girl she was, 
what the result of our acquaintance would be. Very 
soon I recognised that it must either be given up 
altogether or become a grave matter. I was as 
conscious of the position's difticulties as even you 
could wish. I was ready to retreat, if it w^ere pos- 
sible, and without too much — what shall I say ? — 
disappointment. You will remember that I exiled 
myself from Everwell for six months, and that I made 
frantic and singularly unwise attempts to rekindle 
my very transient flame for Georgina Bryant. It 
would not do. I could not avoid seeing Nannie, 
and to see her — oh, mother, yes ! — to see her was 
to love her. Since then our attachment — and I 
very soon declared myself, and learned that she, my 
sweet Nannie ! was not indifferent to me — our 



28o MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

attachment has heen steadily growing in seriousness 
and in irrevocableness. I have seen her in very 
strange, very difficult, and very sad circumstances, 
and I have never seen her anything but what she 
is — pure, and noble, and lovable. In addition, she 
is very bright, and what I should call clever; in 
fact, in every essential way/ said Vincent, laying 
his hands on his mother's shoulders, and looking 
down at her, smiling, but serious, ' superior to your 
son, who is stupid and selfish and idle, who has not 
set himself a very high standard in any matter, 
and who has far too often fallen short of even his 
standard, low as it is. Do not, my dearest mother, 
wish to deprive me of a companionship which I 
know is to me elevating and ennobling as well 
as ardently desired, and very dear ; and which I 
believe you will approve when once you are 
acquainted with my darling herself Now I have 
very little more to say. Of course it would have 
been easy to have married Nannie first, and to have 
informed you of the step afterwards, when you 
could recognise it as unalterable. But I prefer 
giving you full notice of my intentions, and if I 
can, I mean to gain your consent. Nothing but 
Nannie's own refusal shall prevent my marrying 
her, but it will make a considerable difference to us 
all if my wife and my mother, both so dear to me, 
are bad friends ; if you, who might be such a help 



CONCLUSION 281 

ill what she will at first doubtless feel a very difficult 
and trying position, are — not unkind, you are unkind 
to no one, but cold, obstructive, and unpropitious. 
I don't expect you at present to like my marriage ; 
but I think you had better make the best of what 
you consider a bad job, and do what you can to have 
it turn out without the evil results you venture to 
predict.' And Vincent kissed her with affectionate 
ceremony. 

Lady Katharine dried her eyes and returned the 
salute. There was a silence. 

' Well, dearest, if your mind is quite made up, 
and your affections are so deeply engaged, I will say 
no more against it,' said the mother at last, slowly. 

' Thank you. Thank you, my dearest mother. 
And I may bring Nannie here at once for you to 
make her acquaintance ? ' he urged, retaining her 
hand between his. 

' Very well,' said Lady Katharine, with a sigh. 

' Thank you most heartily, mother. It is a real 
kindness, for it will smooth our path and set us right 
in the eyes of the world. I believe you are mis- 
taken in thinking outsiders have any evil surmise 
about us ; but at any rate there will be an end to 
all that, if Nannie is seen under your wing.' 

Whereupon he attacked the cold beef, and Lady 
Katharine lingered beside him, very loving and 
assiduous, but far from content. 



282 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

* Mind/ said Vincent, looking up presently, ' I 
mean her to be welcomed. She must be treated by 
you and by every one exactly like any other young 
lady of our acquaintance.' 

' Vincent, dear,' said the poor lady, ' I can't 
imagine what your grandfather, or indeed your 
own dear father, would say, if they knew what you 
were doing.' 

' I shall probably write to my grandfather this 
evening ; or I may wait till we are actually engaged. 
Then he can say his worst, and, I suppose, as he 
threatened, he will cut my acquaintance. I shall 
be sorry, for he has been very kind to me; but I 
cannot help it. The thing I shall not permit is 
that he or any one should bother Nannie with remon- 
strance. You, mother, will have to assist me in 
preventing that, and I beg that you will remember 
the hint yourself,' said Vincent, emphatically. 

What more could Lady Katharine do ? And 
he had no sooner finished his luncheon than he gave 
her no further opportunity for expression of her 
views at all. He had arrangements to make for 
Alick's funeral and other matters, and as soon as 
these were concluded he returned to X . 

The widow spent a most disagreeable afternoon. 
She cried from time to time. She explained about 
the visitor to the housekeeper with all the dignity 
she could command, and of course did not refer to 



CONCLUSION 283 

her son's terrible intentions ; but she detected a 
lurking smile in the corner of the good woman's 
eye, and she foresaw endless gossip, and the descent 
of Sir Vincent many degrees in public estimation. 
Nannie of all people ! The very girl whose name 
had already been so unpleasantly mixed up with the 
family; about whom a madwoman had spun a silly 
story to make the scandal more sensational. It would 
be revived now. Horrible ! One of the other girls 
would not have been so bad ; but indeed they were 
all, all very loud and offensive. Oh dear, how could 
he ? Simply, how could he ? Certainly she had 
noticed that some of his men friends were a little 
rough ; but she did think he would have appreciated 
a lady when he saw one. That dear, charming 
Georgina ! That sweet, bright, girlish Victoria ! 
Yet, now she came to think of it, he had once 
flirted quite hard with the fast, noisy, hunting 
Miss Chambers at Faverton, quite as much as with 
Victoria. Yet Lady Katharine would infinitely 
rather he had selected Miss Chambers than this 
designing girl, who had neither birth nor breeding, 
and wdio was a positive byword at Everwell. 

' Perhaps I am wronging her,' continued the 
lady's confused and sorrowing thoughts, ' and she is 
a nice good girl really. Vincent says so. But then 
young men are so easily taken in by a pretty face. 
Certainly she seemed very modest the day I saw 



284 ^J^' BRYANT^ S MISTAKE 

her. But she was a mere child then. Women of 
that class get so much worse as they age. Yes, 
then she was willing to admit she was no fit wife 
for Vincent. Now, according to him, she has changed 
her mind. It just shows she has deteriorated. 
Oh, my poor, dear son, what miseries you are prepar- 
ing for yourself ! Your career ruined ; a wretched 
home ; all refined society driven away, for of course 
only climbing flatterers will care to associate with a 
woman of that sort. Oh, how sadly different from 
my happy, happy, married life ! And after having 
poor Mr. Bryant and his terrible wife for a living 
example before our eyes. Not to take warning ! 
And it was even hinted that this girl was actually 
that shocking and disastrous woman's own daughter ! 
But that was on the face of it untrue. Vincent 
said nothing about it. I am sure he does not think 
it could have been true.' Lady Katharine pressed 
her hand to her head, much agitated. ' Well, well, 
in no case could it make any difference. Her whole 
bringing up has been just that of quite a common 
girl — quite. Education does infinitely more than 
actual birth. Yes, I am glad that rumour was so 
utterly baseless. It would only make the whole 
matter more disagreeable than even it is.' Neverthe- 
less Lady Katharine had an unacknowledged feeling 
that if her dear lost brother, whom she had tenderly 
loved despite his faults, had been responsible for 



CONCLUSION 285 

Nannie's existence, she would have regarded the girl 
with more interest than she could think of bestow- 
ing on the daughter of a mere coarse farmer, who 
had entrapped and victimised her son. As it was, 
she put the idea out of her mind and wrung her 
hands and said — 

' It is miserable to think of. Poor, poor Vincent. 
Poor, dear boy. It is wretched to think of. I have 
been weak to yield. I ought to have opposed it 
to my very uttermost.' 



CHAPTEE V 

' And now, Nannie,' said Vincent, ' pardon me if I ask 
what you are going to do yourself?' She hesitated. 
'I suppose I must go back to London to Lizzie,' 
she said ; * I'd have liked to have seen him laid to 
rest, but I don't see how to manage it.' 

' Will you trust me to arrange it for you ? ' 
' Oh yes. I will do whatever you think best.' 
' Thanks, Nannie. I was sure you would want 
to be present. Moreover, I understood that Lizzie 
was off your hands ? You want a breathing time to 
decide what you are going to do next, don't you ? 
WeU, when I was at home this morning I arranged 
that you should come to Everwell, at any rate for 
a few days.' 



286 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

' Oh, thank you ! You are good ! ' cried Nannie, 
with tears in her eyes ; ' oh, if you knew how I 
longed to be at Everwell just once again ! ' 

' You are fond of the place ? ' 

' Oh, I am ! I am ! There is no place I love so 
well ! ' 

' Then I am very glad I have secured you a 
habitation there for a while.' 

' Where is it ? ' 

' I will tell you on our way thither this evening. 
You promised to trust me ? ' 

Nannie was silent for a minute. Something 
in Vincent's gaze brought the colour to her pale 
cheeks. 

'Do you really, really think, sir, it is best for 
me to go to Everwell just now ? Please, I think 
you know what I mean.' 

' I do think it best. I have considered carefully, 
and I think it is the very best plan for both of us,' 
said Vincent. She made no further objection. 

The constant strain and fatigue of the last week 
had exhausted the girl. She was feeling nervous and 
agitated, restlessly anxious to be away from this dis- 
mal house. Her tears were not yet refreshing ones. 

' You are not ill, Nannie, are you ? ' asked 
Vincent, anxiously. 

'No — oh no. I am never ill. I am only so 
very tired. I did not know how tired till now that 



CONCLUSION 287 

it is over.' She meant poor Alick's sickness and 
death, but had no sooner said the words than it 
struck her they might be imagined to have a larger 
reference, and she flushed painfully. 

' Did you rest a bit, as I bade you ? ' said 
Vincent, drily. 

' I tried. It wasn't very successful. Do you 
know I heard some one — one of the people here — 
screaming. It frightened me. It gave me dread- 
ful thoughts. It made me wonder if Alick ever — 
One of the nurses came to tell me not to mind. I 
think she meant it kindly, but I did not like the 
way she talked. She told me stories — some about 
Alick. They were not disagreeable stories, but I 
don't want to talk of him to any one who did not 
know him as he was — who did not know all. It 
made me shiver. It made me hate the house. 
Then I went out.' 

' Went out, Nannie ? ' 

* Yes. I wanted to feel the air, and to see 
ordinary people,' said Nannie, ' working men, and 
wholesome women with babies — people who were 
happy, and not thinking of exile and corpses and 
madmen ' 

' Dear Nannie ! ' 

' Ah ! It seems hard to you to have such 
thoughts, when he was alive yesterday. Oh, my 
poor Alick ! When I think of the hopes we had 



288 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

for him once, I am glad — yes, I am very glad his 
disappointments are ended. And now I want only 
to think of him as at rest, and at peace, and happy 
in the golden city. I want to think that even his 
poor body is away from this gloomy place. And I 
want, perhaps more than I ought, to get away from 
it myself That is why I went out and walked 
about the streets.' 

' You shall hear the sea at Everwell to-morrow, 
Nannie,' said Vincent. 

' I am afraid to let any one know how glad I 
am ! ' she said, under her breath. Vincent was 
looking at her anxiously ; he had not before seen 
her so overwrought. She was clasping and unclasp- 
ing her fingers restlessly, her eyes fixed on the sky. 
But she felt his gaze. 

'I shall go to my brothers in Australia,' said 
Nannie, abruptly, with a ring of despair in her 
voice. He answered, quietly — 

' It is possible that will be best, Nannie, but you 
are not calm enough to make the decision now.' 

' Go and get ready for your journey,' said 
Vincent, gravely and firmly. 

Nannie obeyed, colouring with remorse for her 
agitation. 

Vincent, left alone, smiled with measureless 
tenderness and a touch of triumph. 

They started soon after. Nannie had bought 



CONCLUSION 289 

herself in the course of her morning's restless 
wandering, a ready-made, plain, and rather rough 
black dress, which she wore with grace and dignity. 
She had the same simple but not dowdy black hat 
which she had worn in the London streets. Alto- 
gether she looked quite suitably dressed for a young 
lady in mourning and about to travel. She had schooled 
herself into outward self-possession again — was even 
cheerful under the influence of ' returning home.' 

' First-class ? ' whispered Nannie, whose sense of 
humour rarely deserted her for long. ' I have no 
business here,' Sir Vincent smiled. 

He gave her an illustrated paper and made a 
few remarks in the course of the journey, and took 
care of her generally in a way very delightful to her, 
and, in the eyes of their travelling companions, very 
natural and proper from a gentleman to a young 
lady whom he was escorting. But they were silent, 
on the whole — Nannie from her mourning and her 
great weariness, Vincent from suppressed and grow- 
ing excitement. The people in the compartment 
with them thought they were rather shy, and evi- 
dently tired, after many hours' travelling probably. 

' The girl in particular seemed knocked up, but 
one could see that when looking well she must be 
unusually beautiful. The young man evidently 
thought so. Engaged ? Oh no ; they did not seem 
at all intimate — were rather ceremonious with each 

VOL. Ill 58 



290 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

other. Only it struck one he admired her, and 
one wouldn't say she had not a sort of admiration 
for him. We wondered who they were. They got 
out at Uggle Grinby, where they were to change 
trains, but we did not learn their destination.' 



CHAPTEK VI 

' I AM not to get in here ? ' said Nannie, drawing 
back from the brougham at Tanswick station. 

' Get in,' said Vincent, a little shortly, and 
Nannie obeyed, but without feeling comfortable. 
The first-class railway carriage had only amused her. 
Lady Katharine's brougham was different. She sat 
up very straight and did not look at her companion. 

' Are you very tired ? ' he asked, in a low voice 
of irrepressible tenderness. 

' Yes. How fast they go ! ' said Nannie, em- 
barrassed. 

' Still it is a long drive. Lean back and make 
yourself comfortable.' Nannie did not obey this time. 

' Where are you taking me, please, sir ? ' 

' I am taking you to my mother, Nannie.' The 
girl started and looked round at him questioningly. 

' Why ? You don't mean — Does she wish it ? ' 

'Yes. I arranged it with her this morning. 



CONCLUSION 291 

We think it best, Nannie. It is reasonable for you 
to come to Everwell at present, and my mother is 
the most suitable person to receive you as a guest.' 

' But ' 

' Don't be frightened. You have not been 
taken prisoner. You are free in every sense. But 
we want every one to know you are a friend of 
ours.' 

' Are you sure her ladyship wishes that to be 
thought ? ' 

' She knows, ISTannie, that / wish it very much, 
and that makes her wish it.' 

The girl was silent — still sitting up very straight, 
her hand on the window. The light was indistinct, 
but Vincent could see she was greatly troubled. 

' Nannie,' he said, presently, ' do you remember 
that Alick bade me tell you the things he and I 
had talked of the day before you came to him ? ' 

' Yes,' said Nannie, panting. ' He did not speak 
of it again.' 

' He left me to tell you at my own time.' 

There was a silence. 

' What was it ? ' asked Nannie, abruptly. 

' Alick's mind was perfectly clear then. He knew 
that he had been insane, and that if he regained 
his bodily strength he would probably become insane 
again. I made him understand, or he said himself 
— I cannot say from which of us the words came 



292 MR. Bryant's mistake 

first — that marriage between you and him was for 
ever impossible ; and that that being so, he had no 
right to keep you bound to himself. He told you 
that much, Nannie, himself 

She was silent, pinching her fingers. 

' It was thought, then, that Alick might — in a 
measure — recover ; but he guessed very well him- 
self that he was dying. We spoke further, Nannie, 
of what was to become of you after he was dead ; or, 
it might be, after he had recovered and had given 
you up.' Vincent paused. ' Subject to your own 
consent, Nannie, Alick gave you to me.' 

A cry broke from Nannie's lips, and she put her 
hands before her face with a sob. 

' It is too soon, I know, Nannie,' said Vincent. 
' Neither I nor any one shall speak of it to you 
again until you wish. Nevertheless, dearest, it is 
best for you, and for me, and for my mother 
and a few people more, to understand, if it is the 
case, that you have come to Everwell as my 
affianced bride.' 

' Do you mean,' said Nannie, with distress in her 
wide eyes, ' that I oughtn't to come here if it is not so ? ' 

' I would not entrap you in that manner, Nannie. 
I have said you are perfectly free. You come in 
any case as our friend ; you shall leave it there, if 
you choose. If you feel unable to face the decision 
now, tell me and we will defer it. If you are in 



CONCLUSION 293 

doubt as to what your decision shall be, I think it 
will be better to wait, and to discuss it together 
when you are calm and strong. But, Nannie, can 
there be any doubt as to what your ultimate decision 
will be ? And if there is none, if you do intend 
to be my wife and my everlasting treasure, I repeat, 
it is very desirable to present you as my betrothed 
to my dear mother to-night.' 

Nannie did not answer. There was a long 
silence, and Vincent ventured to put his arm round 
her and draw her nearer. 

' She wouldn't like it, would she ? ' whispered 
Nannie, looking up with a perplexed, trustful air to 
his eyes, very near hers now. 

' I cannot say she exactly likes it,' replied 
Vincent. ' She has promised not to oppose us. I 
put the whole thing plainly before her to-day.' 

' Did you ? But your other relations ? ' 

' I have no other relations I am expected to 
consult.' 

' Eeally ? ' 

' Eeally and truly. You, Nannie, have you any 
one's wishes to study ? ' 

' Only Alick's.' 

'Nannie, Alick knew perfectly what he was 
doing when at the last he laid your hand in mine.' 

' Oh, if I could think he knew ! ' 

' After what he had said to me I have no doubt 



294 MR. Bryant's mistake 

that he knew. Besides, Nannie, if he had never 
expressed an opinion, — death cancels all bonds.' 

' No, no, do not say it. It may be true ! I 
cannot bear to say it.' 

' Then I will only repeat that his last and his 
dearest wish was for your happiness.' 

' It is not that I am thinking of/ said Nannie, 
simply. Presently she added with a sigh, ' And you 
know there were so many other difficulties. It 
never seemed necessary to go into them before. 
But there they always were.' 

' Believe me, Nannie, I know them all, and have 
considered them thoroughly.' 

' Have you ? ' 

' Yes. They might have been enough to separ- 
ate some persons ; they might have been enough to 
separate us when we loved each other first. They 
are not enough to separate us now.' 

' Are they not ? Are they not ? ' 

' No. We have waited five long years and our 
love has endured. We have known each other in 
the sun and the rain ; in ease and in perplexity ; in 
joy and sorrow. We can trust each other. And we 
are quite aware that we shall have difficulties. 
There is no life without difficulties ; ours will be 
a little different from other people's, that is all. 
We have both had experience in overcoming diffi- 
culties, and we shall have love, which conquers all. 



CONCLUSION 295 

to help us. Moreover, Nannie,' said Vincent, smiling, 
' I don't know what you have done to yourself, but 
you are somehow not exactly the little sun-bonneted 
damsel I fell in love with five years ago. I don't think 
it struck those people in the train, for instance, that 
there was any marvellous incongruity between us.' 

' Are you glad or sorry ? ' whispered Nannie, 
with a touch of her old merriment. 

' You are much the same to me whatever you 
are/ replied Vincent, ' but I think my relations 
would probably be glad. / can't, under any circum- 
stances, Nannie, make much alteration, so I suppose 
it is better for you to come nearer to me. Hus- 
bands and their wives ought to be like each other.' 

' Oh ! ' said Nannie, her cheek getting very hot, 
as he spoke so calmly of their proposed relation. 
However, she said no more, and gave no distinct 
assurance of her intentions. She even returned his 
embracing arm to himself with a little air of inde- 
pendence, and sat up straight again, without looking 
at him or seeming to feel his gaze. Vincent held 
his peace. 



CHAPTEE VII 

' Oh, I am frightened ! ' said Nannie, when at last 
the carriage stopped at Everwell Heights and Sir 



295 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

Vincent got out. He looked at her pale face and 
trembling form with slight anxiety. 

' Come ! ' he said, encouragingly. But Nannie 
shrank back in her corner, gazing at him with 
terrified eyes, as if the sudden rise on the social 
ladder was impossible. ' Come,' repeated Vincent, 
' summon up all your dignity, my dearest, and 
march in courageously, like the lady you are. If 
you knew how proud of you I am ! ' 

Thus adjured, Nannie descended, and with a firm 
resolve to do him credit, with head well erect, and 
with all the stateliness of her natural grace, she was 
led by him across the Elizabethan Hall, down three 
steps and along a short vestibule, till she was in the 
presence of the high-born lady, her hostess. 

' Here she is, mother. Here is Nannie ! ' said 
Sir Vincent ; and Lady Katharine advanced — at her 
stateliest also, and with a vague intention of anni- 
hilating her humble guest by sheer superiority of 
appearance and deportment. 

She had dressed herself carefully and with as 
much solemn magnificence as her very quiet widow's 
garb would permit. Vincent should not complain 
that she had not prepared for the girl with respect. 
And she deliberately intended to overpower Nannie ; 
advancing with a step and a smile quite in keeping 
with the length of her sweeping train. She looked, 
and she felt a queen ; and she expected — vaguely — 



CONCLUSION 297 

to see an unkempt, dishevelled, excited creature, 
one-third the shrinking child of her recollection ; 
one-third bouncing country lass, smelling of the 
hay ; one-third London dressmaker, pert and for- 
ward and giggling. Lady Katharine was not a 
clever woman ; she had no great insight, and when 
she prophesied she generally prophesied wrong. 

But the pale young lady in the black, correct, 
unnoticeable dress, who came forward with quiet 
composure and the unaffected dignity of perfect 
simplicity, w^as quite as surprising to Lady Katharine 
as to old John, and to the young footman, a new- 
comer, who had heard wdth avidity all the gossip in 
the servants' hall that afternoon. The widow had 
a moment of bewilderment ; a feeling that she had 
been under some extraordinary delusion, that she 
had mistaken her son, and that the Nannie to whom 
he had referred was not the person she had known 
by that name at all. And meanwhile the girl was 
advancing up the long room, wdiich seemed boundless 
to her weary and agitated gaze ; and Lady Katharine 
was stepping forward mechanically with the ceremon- 
ious and frigid greeting which she had prepared. 

Vincent was just about half satisfied ; but he 
put a chair for jSTannie, and tried to still his ruffled 
thoughts with the reflection that his mother, whom 
he knew well, would thaw presently. 

' My lady,' said Nannie, in her clear soft voice. 



298 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

looking up fearlessly into the kind eyes of the 
queenly woman, ' Sir Vincent told me you wished 
me to come here.' 

It is not too much to say that Nannie's words, 
and the manner with which they were uttered, 
cleared away from Lady Katharine's mind the idea 
that this girl could be assuming, or presumptuous, 
or in any sense forward. And as she looked at 
her, the widow realised how very, very sweet and 
lovely she was ; refined looking too, with delicate 
features and a graceful carriage. Lady Katharine 
took her hand. ' Certainly, my dear, I am glad to 
see you. Come and sit down. I can see that you 
are very tired.' It was not what she had meant 
to say, but she said it ; and already Vincent's frown 
had begun to give place to a triumphant smile. 

All this had required a desperate effort from 
Nannie in her weakened condition ; and the com- 
fortable room felt hot after the cold autumn air 
outside. She sank abruptly into the chair her lover 
had placed for her, resting her hands on the arms 
and closing her eyes, while for a moment the room 
swam round her, and all her energy was required 
to ward off an attack of faintness. Lady Katharine 
had turned to the tea-table, but Vincent ling^ered 
beside the girl ; and in her struggle against this 
mere physical weakness she cast one frightened, 
appealing look at him. 



CONCLUSION 299 

'Sugar, my dear V asked the widow. It seemed 
a very kind and simple question, but ISTannie started 
as if she had been struck, and when she opened her 
lips to reply, not a word could she utter. Alas ! 
she had come in like a conquering heroine, but now 
she burst into tears like any frightened child ; and 
she leaned back in her chair and covered her face 
with her hands, and felt that she was disgracing 
herself and disgracing Vincent, but that even for 
his sake she could not, could not help it. 

It was too much for the lover altogether. All 
day, nay, for much longer, while Nannie had been 
under his care, and without any recognised relation 
between them, he had repressed any warmth of 
gesture or expression which could give her uneasi- 
ness. But now, if only because in his mother 
Nannie had a visible friend and guardian, the 
necessity for this reserve and restraint was over. 
And he had after all tasked her beyond her strength ; 
and she had looked at him appealingly ! his dear 
little Nannie whom he claimed openly now. Yincent 
knelt by her side, and drew her in his arms, and 
murmured every tender name, every comforting, 
protecting, lo^dng word he could invent over her ; 
and pressed her hand to his heart, pillowing her head 
on his breast, and kissing her pure forehead and her 
weeping eyes, and the sweet lips of which the disiato 
riso had been tasted lons^ ao-o and lono- forbidden. 



300 AIR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

Nannie made no resistance, but it was not 
exactly the best way to restore her composure. 

Lady Katharine stood by the tea-table, and for 
a few minutes watched the pair silently. And 
another illusion took its quiet and unnoticed de- 
parture from her gentle heart. From that moment 
it never occurred to her that there was possibility 
of separating these two. Vincent's eloquence had 
not convinced her that his passion for the girl was 
irrevocable, but the wild kisses he was showering 
now on Nannie's pale and suffering face were more 
potent reasoners. Very likely Lady Katharine was 
a foolish woman, and the only thing kisses recalled 
to her memory were those of the only lover she 
herself had ever had, which had ushered in for her 
a wedded life unstained by one unpleasant memory. 
Lady Katharine watched, and she did not know 
why, but her own soft kind eyes filled with tears 
too. 

Nannie, however, was getting almost hysterical ; 
rescue was imperative, and Lady Katharine came 
gently forward. 

' Vincent, you foolish boy, get up. You are up- 
setting her, don't you see ? Get up, and be quiet, 
and go and drink your tea. Nannie, dear child,' 
she continued, taking the girl's trembling hand, 
' you are quite worn out. Wouldn't you like to 
come upstairs to bed at once ? Come with me. I 



CONCLUSION 301 

will take care of you, dear ; don't be afraid of 
me.' 

And presently she led the weeping Xannie from 
the room with as much tenderness as if the girl 
had been her daughter all her life. 

' Oh, thank you,' whispered il^annie, later ; ' I did 
not think you would be so kind as this. It has 
been such a strange, long day — such a strange, sad 
day ! I cannot think. I can only feel sorrowful 
and yet so happy, so very happy, and that you are 
so good to me. And that he is here,' she mur- 
mured, ' and has kissed me again, and that we may 
stay together.' 

Vincent was left by himself for more than 
an hour, very restless and lonely and excited, 
Lady Katharine's maid came with a tray, and 
carried off a meal for Xannie, but she volunteered 
no information, and Vincent tried to look interested 
in the Saturday Review, which he had snatched up 
in self-defence. 

At last his mother reappeared. She came and 
stood by her son's chair, with her hand on his 
shoulder and her kind eyes beaming. 

' She is asleep already, Vincent. I never saw- 
any one so tired. Poor young thing, what suffering 
she must have had ! But a good sleep is exactly 
what she wants ; and I coaxed her to eat a little bit 
first, and then stayed with her till she slept.' 



302 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

Vincent put his arm round Lady Katharine's 
waist and looked up at her. 

' You dear, good mother !' he said, passing off his 
emotion with a laugh. ' Henceforth you " may com- 
mand me anything!" Oh, mother,' he added, 'you 
can have no conception how I love her. She is the 
best — the dearest — ■ — ' 



EPILOGUE 

Neaely two years later, one sunny August afternoon, 
two people, an artist and his wife from Sir Vincent 
Leicester's Hotel, had walked to Tanswick to change 
a book at the railway stall. There were few persons 
about, and consequently a bronzed, handsome, showily 
dressed young man, who was taking a ticket, was 
the more noticeable. His voice was loud, and his 
whole appearance expressive of an excessively well- 
to-do personage, who thought, and had reason to 
think, decidedly well of himself 

'A colonial gent, I take it,' said the artist, 
' come to see the old folks at home, no doubt. He 
looks as if there was good beef in the place he 
hails from.' 

A little man without a coat, and who was carry- 
ing a plant of beetroot and a pestle and mortar 
happened to be passing, and overheard this remark. 



CONCLUSION 303 

' The sanguine temperament, sir/ he observed, 
' becoming carnivorous, succumbs at last to a plethora. 
I see Death written in blood-red lines on Mr. John's 
countenance.' And he passed on without waiting 
for a reply. 

The ' colonial ' had by this time taken his ticket, 
and he stalked into the little waiting-room, leaving 
the door open, so that the strangers could see in. 
There was a young lady there, who rose as he ap- 
proached and stood beside him, her arm through his, 
smiling and looking up affectionately and intimately 
in his face as they talked. 

'■ It is Lady Leicester, I do believe,' whispered the 
artist. 

' My dear, nonsense,' said the wife, ' talking to 
that vulgar man ? She looks like a lady, I admit ; 
but Lady Leicester from that beautiful old house ? 
It is impossible.' 

The train was now coming into the station, and 
the lady and the vulgar man were making their 
adieux, and even kissing each other affectionately, 
and saying last words as if loth to part. It was 
really rather a strange scene, but the pair themselves 
seemed unconscious of anything unusual, and the 
station-master and the porters and the man without 
the coat, though they stared a little at the colonial 
gent, exhibited no surprise at the lady's demeanour. 

When the train had gone, the young lady drove 



304 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

away in a pretty pony carriage, taking the queer 
coatless man with her, and the strangers consulted 
the station-master as to who they were. 

* Well, I declare !' cried the artist's wife, ' I have 
lost all interest in Sir Vincent, now I have heard 
such a shocking thing ! I thought that girl, pretty 
as she is, had an unrefined look !' 

' No, my dear,' corrected her husband, ' you did not 
think so, till you heard she was a farmer's daughter.' 

Later, when the pair were sketching in Everwell 
churchyard, they perceived Sir Vincent and his wife 
quite close to them, strolling up the steep slope 
together, and they even caught a word or two of the 
talk between the ill-assorted pair. 

'Do tell me, Vincent,' so Lady Leicester was 
saying, ' how you got on with him V 

' Oh, very well. Upon your principle, Nannie ; 
neither of us trying to seem different from what we 
are. His motive in coming was a very proper one.' 

' All the same I think you are a little glad he 
lives in Australia.' 

' I think it prevents friction. Fortune has 
favoured us, ISTannie. Confess now, the difficulties 
we feared have not been so very bad after all.' 

' I have often thought,' replied Nannie, ' it has 
been easier because we live in a place where every 
one knows us. I was not expected to be like a 
grand lady, or to have grand relations. It was so 



COXCLUSIOX 305 

simple to be just natural with everybody. But if 
we had gone away to Devonshire or Essex — Don't 
you think so V 

' I think the chief reason we have got on well is 
because you are an exceptional person, and have had 
no need to assume anything, since you are all right 
as you are. But probably it is as you say. I 
am sure Bryant's difficulties arose largely from his 
finding that people did not recognise in him the son 
of a grocer. It is the old story ; the frog who tried 
to swell into an ox, burst. You, my Nannie, wisely 
restrained your ambition to being a large and 
beautiful frog. I detect in you no symptoms of 
bursting.' 

' I hope John won't burst,' said Nannie, laughing; 
* he has swelled a good deal, I think.' 

' Oh, I have great faith in John,' replied Vincent. 

Nannie never passed through the churchyard 
without lingering by those graves of her kindred, 
where were interred so many broken hopes and ended 
sorrows. She paused beside them as usual to-day. 

' Poor thing !' she said, reading the short inscrip- 
tion over Emma Bryant. ' No, she never was like 
a mother to me. Dear Lady Katharine is that 1 
But since I have had my own child, I have under- 
stood so much better what that poor woman wanted. 

' Another instance,' said Vincent, ' of one who 
heaped unto herself damnation by trying to seem 
VOL. Ill 59 



3o6 MR. BR YANT S MI ST A KE 

other and greater than she was. But one pities 
her, because it was so little her own doing.' 

' And our Alick ? ' said Nannie, a little reproach- 
fully, moving over to the cross-crowned grave by 
itself, where the deposed Everwell prophet slept, 
resting in hope ; ' when you think of him, do you 
think that he, too, aspired too high ? ' She knelt 
on the grass, leaning her head on the white cross 
and looking up at her husband with sweet eyes full 
of memory. 

' I suppose so, Nannie. But his chief fault was 
ignorance ; and his punishment was greater than he 
deserved. So was Mrs. Bryant's. So is the 
punishment of all the ignorant, stupid, harmless 
people, whom we see arrive at failure. It makes 
one doubt the moral government of the universe ; 
that because persons are weak, or stupid, or helpless, 
they should be degraded and disgraced, ruined in 
soul and mind and body.' 

' But — are they ? ' 

' By the hundred. You yourself, Nannie, if you 
had by nature been a little vainer, a little sillier, a 
little less strong, a little less pure, a little more 
selfish and ambitious and incapable, might you not 
easily have had Mrs. Bryant's history ? ' 

' If you had been different too,' said Nannie. 

' I say you might have had Mrs. Bryant's 
history if you had been as feeble as she. I say you 



CONCLUSION 307 

might have come to far greater grief than ever she 
did, and I ask — mind, I don't assert it — would not 
your doom have been heavier than you deserved ? ' 
' You never can tell that a person's soul is 
ruined, and nothing else matters in the end. Think, 
Vincent ; eternity is so long, and a whole lifetime 
here is only a moment of it. Perhaps God does 
not expect too much out of a moment. Alick 
may have been sent into this world to learn some 
om virtue only ! And if amid all his failure he 
learned that perfectly, would he not have had " Well 
done " said to him when he reached the golden 
gates, before he was sent to some other world to 
learn his next lesson ? It is only a fancy ; but of 
this much I am sure — we know very little of each 
other's souls ; and what looks like failure and ruin, 
and even degradation, may not be so in God's sight 
— will not be so in ours, when we know as we are 
known.' 

* I cannot say, Xannie ; these things are very 
mysterious. I am half afraid Nature doesn't trouble 
her head about individuals at all, and only thinks of 
the whole. Man, too, Nannie, to compare great 
things to small, if he is to effect any social improve- 
ments, can only do it by following Nature's plan, 
damning the trees to save the wood.' 

' Yes,' said Nannie, ' because he is only man. 
God can care for the wood and the trees at the 



3o8 MR. Bryant's mistake 

same time. And I am sure He does. If nothing 
is too great for Him, why should anything be too 
small ? It is only because we are blind that we 
need microscopes.' 

'It is a cheerful creed, Nannie, and possibly 
true. Only, the evidence is obscure. Two happy 
people like you and me are more likely to subscribe 
to it than one of the dreary failures we spoke of 
just now.' 

' No ; it seems to me people generally learn it in 
suffering. I am sure even Alick felt it. He never 
got far enough to think about the whole, and the 
race, and the survival of the fittest, and all the wise 
things you and Dr. Yerrill talk about ; but he knew 
— in his heart — that God cared for liim. Oh, 
Vincent, I am sure it is true ! I should not enjoy 
my happiness as I do if I thought it had come by 
chance, if I did not believe that God, who num- 
bers every hair, did not know it to be the very 
best thing for me ; and that as I had received evil 
— ah, how little it seems once it is over ! — out of 
His hand, so I should receive good when He 
wished it.' 

' Eloquent little preacher ! ' said Vincent, kissing 
her ; and then they strolled on, his arm round her, 
as in their courtship days. ' It restores my faith 
in Providence, Nannie,' said her husband 'to hear 
one so dear as you confess to happiness. May you 



CONCLCSWX 309 

ever be happy, mv treasure, and may all other well- 
deserWug folk get their deserts some day as well ! 
But look down there, Kannie, and tell me who 
is driving in at our gate at this late hour ? ' 

' Oh dear ! AMiat an exciting day this is ! ' 
said Xannie. ' That is Victoria. How nice ! Lady 
Katharine will keep her till we get in, won't she ? 
But oh ! I did not want to hurry in from our walk. 
Vincent ! ' 

'AMio is the elderly man with my cousin-in- 
law, Xannie ? ' 

' I can't think. Her husband can't have grown 
so old as that since we last saw him, can he ? ' 

' If he has, it's a serious look-out for me, seeing 
we were born on the same day. "Walk quickl}^ 
Nannie, for my mother will reproach us for every 
minute we lose of that ^'isitor's society. Shall we 
say, Xannie, that it is not altogether unfortunate 
that our brother John has this afternoon moved on to 
Faverton ? That old, old man dri^dng so affection- 
ately with his heir's pretty wife (who isn't a quarter 
as pretty as mine, by the way) is none other than 
my irrevocably offended grandfather.' 

' Oh, I am glad ! ' exclaimed Nannie, ' Victoria 
always said, poor man, he had made himself so 
lonely and discontented without you 1 Perhaps he'll 
forgive you after all, Vincent,' cried Nannie, * if you 
point out that his great -gi'andson really, really. 



3IO MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

hasn't one single, ugly, red hair anywhere on the 
whole of his head ! ' 

' Nay, that's certain,' laughed Vincent, ' but yet 
the pity of it, Nannie. Oh, Nannie, the pity of it, 
Nannie ! ' 



THE END 



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